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Again you are assembled to do honor to the memory of George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental armies during the war for Independence, this being the one hundred and seventy-ninth anniversary of his birth.

The first steps to the establishment of a school of systematic education of young men was William and Mary College, of Williamsburgh, the capital of Virginia, in 1617, twenty-six years before the foundation of Harvard in Massachusetts. But the character of the former was not granted until 1693, or fifty years after. The first common school established by legislation in America was in Massachusetts, in 1645, but the first town school was opened at Hartford, Conn., before 1642, and I feel proud to say I graduated from this same school over two hundred years later, then known as the Hartford Latin Grammar School and later Hartford Boys' and Girls' High School.

The only established schools of higher learning in America after William and Mary in Virginia and Harvard in Massachusetts for the education of young men later prominent in the Revolution were: St. John's, Annapolis, Md., 1696; Yale, New Haven, Conn., 1701; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1740; Princeton, N. J., 1746; Washington and Lee, Lexington, Va., 1749; Columbia, New York, 1754.

Only the sons of men of means could avail themselves of these advantages. Therefore the great mass of those who became more or less prominent picked up whatever they knew as best they could. In Virginia, Patrick Henry, Washington and others had the limited opportunity and means of the old "Field or Plantation School" which was the only road to the rudest forms of knowledge. These were generally taught by men of fair education, but adventurous life, who were paid by the planters within a radius of eight or ten miles.

A notorious pedagogue, by the suggestive name Hobby, celebrated in Virginia annals for the brisk coercive switching of the backs of his "boys" as the most effective road to knowledge, is made famous in history as the rudimentary educator of the great man whose beginning of life's journey dates from this day. Washington's parents having removed from the place of his birth when a child resided within a journey of thirteen miles of the despotic jurisdiction of Hobby, and thither the boy walked or rode daily except Sundays in all kinds of weather, even being obliged to row across the Rappahannock River to Fredericksburg, where this vigorous applier of the ferrule held forth.

At eleven years, the death of Washington's father put an end to even this limited supply of "schooling." But the young man fortunately had a mother who was one of the few educated women of that period. We learn from a primitive record that Mary Ball, the name of Washington's mother, was educated by a young man graduated from Oxford, England, and sent over to be assistant to the rector of the Episcopal parish in which she lived. At the age of fifteen she could read, write and spell. In a letter preserved she wrote to a young lady friend: "He (her tutor) teaches Sister Susie and me and Madame Carter's boy and two girls. I am now learning pretty fast."

It was Governor Berkeley who, in a letter to his friends in England, boastingly "thanked God that there were no schools and printing in Virginia."

Washington was always methodical, and what he undertook was done well. This trait he inherited from his mother, as she was a woman worthy of imitation. From her stern disciplinary character and pious convictions her son learned self-control and all the characteristics of address and balance, which carried him through the most intricate and discouraging experiences of his career.

The tastes of Washington in childhood were instinctively military; all his amusements pointed that way. At twenty-one his first mission to the French at le Boeuf, fixed his career as a fearless man of action. The rescue of Braddock's Regulars from destruction by the savages was his baptism of fire; the rest, a manifestation of human greatness put the stamp of military prowess upon him. Virginia furnished more of the leaders of the first rank in the contest with the Crown than any other one colony, and yet some of the men who contributed most to the incisive work of the conflict had few opportunities of education.

For instance, Patrick Henry, who electrified the issue in his famous epigram which struck the fulminate of the combat for independence: "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third" (Treason, treason being shouted), rejoined, "if this be treason, make the most of it." This same authority, being criticised by aristocratic loyalists for his lack of education, replied: "Naiteral pairts are more acount than all the book lairning on the airth."

Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was a man of higher education. The private schoolhouse ten feet square on the Tuckahoe plantation, thirteen miles west of Richmond, in which Thomas Jefferson and his kinsman, Thomas Marr Randolph, were educated, in part by a private tutor, was in a good state of preservation when I had the pleasure of visiting Tuckahoe at the time of the international review at Hampton Roads.

What we today call free school education began in a simple form under the Quakers of Philadelphia in the earliest years of the Provincial government of Penn, the first proprietary. Thomas Holme in bad rhyme and not much better grammar tells about these schools in 1696. In what the Germans would call the hinterland the school was at a low ebb. There being no towns there were no facilities to get enough scholars together to make the pay of a teacher worth the while. The Germans, the dominant element, when educated at all, were under the tuition of teachers of parochial schools of the evangelical denominations and sects of their own, frequently pastors or missionaries in the language of the Fatherland. In Pennsylvania among the emigrants who came over in colonies there was a preacher and a schoolmaster. This was particularly so among the Dutch, Swedes and Germans. The English Quakers began schools in Philadelphia very soon after the foundation of that town. In the interior schools were rare as the settlements were scattered.

Reading was not founded until 1748, therefore education had not made headway at the time when the men prominent in Berks affairs during the Revolution were at the educational age. Yet those who figured during that period in prominent places held their own with any of their city contemporaries. Among the people generally, according to the oath of allegiance list, handwriting was evidently not widespread, judging from the number of "his (cross) mark," substituted for signatures in 1777-1778.

In 1714 Christopher Dock, a German, opened a school at Skippack, below what is now Pottstown, about thirty miles from this large assemblage of educated young ladies. Christopher Dock was a man of real learning, unexcelled by any outside of Pennsylvania in his time. His "Schule Ordnung" written in 1750 and printed by Christopher Sauer, of Germantown, 1770, was the first treatise on education produced in type in the American colonies. The leaders in the German emigration prior to the American Revolution were often men of the highest scholastic training.

In New England began the earliest systematic preliminaries and expansion in the line of schooling. It has the honor, as I have shown, of founding the second institution of higher learning which survives today. James Otis, Samuel and John Adams, foremost agitators on the legal technicalities of opposition to England, were the best types of the output of New England's educational opportunities of the times.

It is one of the greatest tributes to our forefathers that with these limited and more frequently rude means of getting an education there should have been so many examples of brain and culture to meet the educational requirements of the conflict with the British Crown, the preparation of documents which stood the most critical scrutiny, and as well the preparation and negotiating of correspondence, conventions and treaties to compare favorably with the most advanced university educated statesmen of the Old World.

What I have said applies to men, but what about the young women of the same period? Except in the few largest towns where some enterprising woman was courageous enough of her own volition to establish a school for young ladies, the education of women was not considered of importance. The Moravians were the first and most notable exceptions. The seminary at Bethlehem, almost in sight of where we are now gathered, was famous in Revolutionary days.

In New York and Philadelphia there was an occasional fashionable "school" for young ladies.

Abigail Smith, who became wife of John Adams, one of the earliest agitators and leaders of the contest, one of the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, first Vice-President and second President of the United States, was a woman of education. Being the daughter of a Congregational preacher and having a taste for books, her father devoted much care to her instruction.

As John Adams, on account of his radical patriotism was the man the British authorities most feared, and were looking for, the letters of Mrs. Adams to her husband and his replies are valuable contributions to American history.

They were perfect in writing, spelling, grammar and composition. I may add, though, of a date long after, history is indebted to her letters to her daughter for the only eye witness account we have of the trials and tribulations of the journey of the President's family from Philadelphia to Washington, in the fall of 1800, then the new seat of government, getting lost in the woods and taking possession of the unfinished President's palace, as it was called, without firewood during bleak November days and nights with no looking glasses, lamps, nor anything else to make a President's wife comfortable.

As a rule, young women were not educated in books, but taught to sew, knit, spin, weave, cook, wash, iron and perform all other household requirements. Her value in the scale of life was in proportion as she was skilled in the duties of a housewife. This was the real type of womanhood in those days, and should always be, with a cultivated mind added.

When we read of their heroic maintenance of the home, care and training of children, management of the farm, sale of its products and often facing hardships in keeping the wolf from the door, while husbands, sons and brothers were fighting for liberty and independence, we care not whether they could read, write, spell, cast up accounts or not, but think of their woman's contribution to the success of the contest.

It is positive that the fathers of the Revolution would not have been successful but for the women, perhaps uneducated in books but competent and self-sacrificing in maintaining the home, while the men were fighting for liberty and free exercise of all its enjoyments. If this great nation is a testimonial of what women without the aid of books contributed in laying the foundation, what must now be expected of women having every advantage of education from kindergarten and primary schools to the woman's college?

I might mention sixteen colleges now exclusively devoted to the education of young women in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, and Illinois with a roll of eight thousand young women students.

The first seniority is Mount Holyoke, Mass., founded in 1837, having 755 scholars; the largest is Smith College, Northampton, Mass., 1,620 young women; next Wellesley, Mass., 1,375, and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, 1,125. To show the difference between now and the days of our revolutionary fathers, the school houses were built of logs, one story high, with bark roofs and puncheon or dirt floors, which on account of incessant tramping usually became covered several inches deep with dust. The teacher sat in the center of the room.

In the log walls around were driven wooden pegs upon which were laid boards that formed the desks. The seats were rough stools or logs. All sat with backs to the teacher. The windows to admit light were fitted with white paper greased with lard instead of glass. The boy scholars wore leather or dried skin aprons and buckskin tunics and leggings, when they could not get woven materials. And the girls, coarsely woven flax or wool bodices, skirts, kerchiefs, and aprons and footwear of wood, coarse leather, not a few going barefoot.

The writing equipment in Revolutionary days consisted of ink which was of home manufacture from an ink powder, quills and a pen knife, cutting pens from goose quills being an art. The rest of the materials were paper, pumice, a rule, wax, and black sand, shaken from a pepper box arrangement, instead of blotting paper.

The earliest method of teaching before school textbooks were known was by what was termed the hornbook, a tablet of wood about 5 by 2 inches upon which was fastened a paper sheet containing the alphabet in capitals and small letters across the top and simple syllables like, ab, ad, etc.; below and underneath the whole the Lord's Prayer. The paper containing this course of study was covered with a sheet of transparent horn fastened around the edges. At the lower edge was a small handle with a hole through it and a string to go around the neck. By this means the advantages of a colonial education stayed by the scholars if they wished to avail of them or not.

These hornbooks were made of oak, bound with metal for common folks, but for the rich of iron and metal, often silver. Some were wrought in silk needle work. Their popularity is shown by their advertisement for sale in the Pennsylvania _Gazette_, December, 1760, and New York _Gazette_, May, the same year. Battledore book was another name. Another style was the printed cardboard battledore, about fifteen inches long and folded over like a pocket book.

The primer succeeded the hornbooks, the New England Primer being one of the earliest. It is recorded that three millions of these were sold, so great was the desire for education in times preceding the Revolution. These little books were five by three inches and contained 80 pages. They gave short tables of easy spelling up to six syllables; also some alphabetical religion in verse, as

  K--for King Charles the good, No man of blood.

In the Revolutionary days this was transposed to

  K--for Kings and queens, Both have beens.

Z appears to have been a poser in this alphabetical array of rhythmic religion, rendered

    Zaccheus he Did climb a tree His Lord to see.

The hours of study were eight a day.

There were also text-book writers in those early times.

Among the titles one reads: "A delysious syrup newly claryfied for young scholars yt thurste for ye swete lycore of Latin speche." Another: "A young Lady's Accident or a short and easy introduction to English Grammar designed principally for the use of young learners, more especially for those of the fair sex though proper for either." Fifty-seven pages. It had a great sale.

It was the style of the time to set books of instruction in doggerel verse, even spelling, grammar and arithmetic. The latter was taught by means of "sum books," simply "sums" copied by the learner from an original furnished by the teacher.

Alphabet lessons were similar to the alphabet blocks children play with today, generally beginning with verses from the Bible. An interesting fact is that we find the child's prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep," in the New England Primer catechism as far back as 1737. A more beautiful tribute could not be paid to this invocation of childhood than the thought of the generations of American children who were thus taught in their everyday lessons their dependence upon the Supreme Being.

Some of the most interesting contributions we have to the literature of the Revolutionary period are the letters of the educated women of the time. They are the more pleasing because they relate to the affairs of home and social life.

You, of this age of education of women are expected to exert a large share in their extension and enjoyment.--_American Monthly Magazine._