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Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association : ... annual meeting with constitution and by-laws and list of members (Volume 21) online

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scribed school hours of the colonial Dutch school and its con-
tinuous session throughout the year that we might, with great
profit to the irtterests involved in American eduoation, incorporate



COLONIAL SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES IN NEW YORK 173

such features in a modified form into our present state systems
of education in this country.

The curriculum prescribed for these schools will, of course,
indicate in a general way the object which the authorities had in
mind in the establishment of schools. In a letter issued June 7,
1636, by the classis of Amsterdam, containing instruction for
ministers, comforters of the sick, and schoolmasters going to the
Indies, is the following statement bearing upon the curriculum of
the schools maintained in the Dutch possessions.

He is to instruct the youth both on shipboard and on land, in read-
ing, writing, ciphering, and arithmetic, with all zeal and diligence; he
is also to implant the fundamental principles of true Christian religion
and salvation, by means of catechising; he is to teach them customary
forms of prayers, and also to accustom them to pray; he is to give
heed to their manners, and bring these as far as possible, to modesty and
propriety, and to this end he is to maintain good discipline and order*
and further to do all that is required of a good, diligent and faithful
schoolmaster.

The records indicate that the colonial authorities usually is-
sued a letter of instruction to teachers when they were first em-
ployed. When Evert Pietersen was employed as teacher at New
Amsterdam in 1661, on the advice of the director general and
council the burgomaster issued him the following instruction:

1 He shall take good care, that the children, coming to his school,
do so at the usual hour, namely at eight in the morning and one in the
afternoon.

2 He must keep good discipline among his pupils.

3 He shall teach the children and pupils the Christian Prayers,
commandments, baptism. Lord's supper, and the questions with answers
of the catechism, which are taught here on every Sunday afternoon in
the church.

4 Before school closes he shall let the pupils sing some verses
and a psalm.

5 Besides his yearly salary he shall be allowed to demand and re-
ceive from every pupil quarterly as follows: For each child, whom he
teaches the ABC, spelling, and reading, 30 st.; for teaching to read
and write, 50 st.; for teaching to read, write and cipher, 60 st.; from
these who come in the evening and between times pro rata a fair sum.
The poor and needy, who ask to be taught for God's sake, he shall teach
for nothing.

6. He shall be allowed to demand and receive from everybody, who
makes arrangements to come to his school and comes before the first
half of the quarter preceding the first of December next, the school
dues for the quarter, but nothing from those, who come after the first
half of the quarter.

7 He shall not take from anybody, more than is herein stated.
Thus done and decided by the Burgomasters of the City of Amsterram,
in N. N., November 4, 1661.



174 NEW YORK STATE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

The program of instruction in the Dutch colonial schools was,
therefore, a simple one. The backbone of the course of study was
religious instruction. The main purpose for which schools had
been established and maintained in the mother country was to in-
oculate in each soul the essential principles upon which Calvinism
Avas founded. The Dutch believed that the preservation of their
religious and civil liberties depended upon the rigid enforcement
of such policy. The Dutch settlers in America were actuated by
similar motives in the organization of soiiools here. The teaching
of reading was only a means to this end. Children were therefore
taught to read primarily to enable them to read the Scriptures.
Formal prayers were provided for the opening and the closing
of each session of the school. The children were required to learn
these prayers and to recite them at the appropriate time each day.
They were also required to learn the Lord's prayer and to be
able to recite that prayer when called upon. The children were
also required to learn the "twelve articles of the Christian faith"
and "the confession of sins" as established under the Calvinistie
creed, and also the ten commandments. They were also required
to commit to memory the two catechisms prescribed by the church
and known as the small and the large catechisms. Certain se-
lections from the Scriptures had been compiled for Sunday read-
ing and they were also required to learn these as well as certain
psalms. The text used in teaching children to read was that
which included the prayers and other religious matter which they
were required to learn. The importance which the Dutch at-
tached to religious instruction will be appreciated as this program
of work in the schools is considered. In addition to this thorough
religious instruction which was mandatory and given without fail,
instruction was also mandatory in reading and in writing. In-
struction in the subjects which have been enumerated was re-
quired of all children, both boys and girls. In addition to these
subjects, the course of study included arithmetic. The teaching
of arithmetic, however, was not mandatory and was taught in
those schools only where there was an apparent need for the chil-
dren to possess a knowledge of that subject. A knowledge of
arithmetic was regarded as essential for those children only who
expected to engage in commercial affairs. New Amsterdam and
Albany gave instruction in arithmetic. Instruction in such sub-



COLONIAL SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES IN NEW YORK 175

ject was not generally provided in the schools of other settle-
ments and all children in the schools in these two settlements did
not receive instruction in this subject. The master was required
to examine or catechise his pupils once a week in the presence of
the minister and the elders.

It will be readily understood, since the major part of the
couree of study related to religious instruction, why the school-
master was so closely associated with the work of the church. The
schoolmaster generally performed the duties of reader (voorleger),
percentor (voorsanger) and clerk. Dr. William II. Kilpatrick of
Columbia University, in his admirable treatise on the Dutch schools
of New York, which has been of great service to me in the prepar-
ation of this paper, uses his imagination so skilfully in describing
the service of the schoolmaster of a Dutch colonial school on Sun-
day that I have taken the liberty of quoting it here. It is as fol-
lows:

The master would on Sunday morning open the church, "place the
stools and benches in the church or meeting house in order," put on the
"psalm board" the psalms to be sung before the sermon, and ring the
first bell. Then he would return to the schoolhouse (his home) where
the children had in the meanwhile assembled, march with them to the
church, and have the older ones sit about him to assist in the sin^ng.
The second bell would then be rung, after which he would "read a
chapter out of the Holy Scriptures." "After the third ringing of the
bell he shall read the ten commandments and the twelve articles of our
faith, and then take the lead in the singing." It was the master's duty
to secure proper behavior and attention during the church services.
After the morning service there was an intermission for dinner. Then
the pupils assembled in the schoolroom, where the older ones were
questioned on the morning's sermon, and all on the catechism. This
being done they marched to the church for afternoon service.

We are to understand, of course, that these early schools
were not supplied with textbooks so generously and in such at-
tractive and satisfactory pedagogical form as our modern schools.
Textbooks were imported from Holland and invoices of these
books, as well as inventories of the stock of book dealers, have been
presei'\'ed in official records. Some of these books may now be
found in book collections. These books were generally Bibles,
psalm books, catechisms, song books and arithmetics. One of the
celebrated books was known as "The Arts of Letters." This was
the ABC book used by the children who first entered school.
Slates formed a part of the school equipment from the beginning.
In 1665 a slate containing a frame was inventoried in an estate
at Albany at a value of 10 guilders or $4. The value of one



176 NEW YORK STATE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

without a frame was 4 guilders or $1.60. No question was raised
by the board of health or by the mothers' club on the use of the
slate from a sanitary standpoint.

Discipline was severe and punishment was inflicted for slight
oifenses. The chief instruments of torture were those used in
Holland and, unfortunately for the Dutch boys in America,
brought to this country with the other essential equipment of a
school. These were a heavy wooden stick shaped like a paddle,
called a plak, and the renowned switch, as celebrated and neces-
sary in public schools throughout the civilized world as the master
himself, and which was called the roede.

This review of the colonial schools covers the period in-
cluded within the forty years of Dutch rule. It relates to elemen-
tary schools only. In 1674 the school at New Amsterdam, as we
have already stated, passed into the control of the Reformed
Dutch Church of that city and was continued under the manage-
ment of that church. The schools in the other settlements were
continued as city schools until the Revolution. The development
of the Dutch system of elementary schools was discontinued when
English rule became dominant. The influence of the schools which
had been established, however, and the democratic principles up-
on which they had been constructed exerted an influence not only
upon the life of the colony but even later upon the life of the
state.

The population of New York increased more rapidly under
the English than it had under the Dutch. New Amsterdam in
1674, which had then become New^ York, contained among its
citizens representatives of eighteen nationalities. Elementary
school facilities were not provided in accordance with the growth
of the colony and the needs of its people. The general assembly,
during the period of its existence, did not enact a single provision
to promote elementary education. In 1713 John Sharpe, chaplain
of the King's forces, expressed the educational needs of New
York as follows: "There is hardly anything which is more
wanted in this country than learning, there being no place I know
of in America where it is less encouraged or regarded." In 1741,
in addition to the Dutch school, which was still in operation, there
were six private English schools conducted in New ^ork City.
These were not, however, of a very stable class. Twenty-one years



COLONIAL SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES IN NL^AV YORK 177

later, in 1762, there were two Dutch schools, teu Euglish schools,
one French school, and one Hebrew school. None of these was
a public school and the only civil jurisdiction claimed over these
schools was the right to license the teachers.

In the beginning of the eighteenth century the Society for
the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, an agency of the
Church of England, was chartered by the King and began its
propaganda for the establishment of society charity schools in
America. In 1689, William Huddleston established a private
school and after the founding of Trinity Church he brought his
pupils to the chuieli where the rector gave them instruction. Hud-
dleston was an active worker and ofdcial of Trinity Church. The
private school which he had organized undoubtedly was the origin
of Trinity School and was merged with that school in 1709, the
date which is usually given as the year of the founding of that
school. Huddleston was chosen the teacher of Trinity School in
that year. He conducted the school in his home and in the steeple
of Trinity Church, The mayor and the common council permitted
him to use the city hall for his school from 1714 to 1717. The
following year the pupils of the school were assigned seats in
Trinity Church. The interest of the church in the school con-
stantly increased and in 1732 the church appointed a committee
to inspect such school. Until 1740 this school had been regarded
as the charity school of the S. P. G., but after that date it grad-
ually became known as Trinity Church School, and in 1763 re-
ceived the name "Trinity School вАФ ^New York." The support of
the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to this school and
its work in New York City was discontinued in 1784. The school
was continued under the general control and management of the
authorities of the Protestant Episcopal Church. It has developed
into a leading college preparatory school and has been for more
than a century under the control of a corporation organized by an
act of the Legislature in 1806 known as "The New York Protest-
ant Episcopal Public School." The name of this corporation
signifies the sources of support of this school.

Other schools were established bj - the society largely in terri-
tory adjacent to New York, and between 1710 and 1776, the socie-
ty maintained continuously from five to ten elementary schools,
each having an average attendance of 40 pupils. It is known that



178 NEW YORK STATE HISTORIC Al. ASSOCIATION

schools were organized at liye, White Plaiiis, North Castle, West
Chester, Yonkers, New Roehelle, Stateu Island, Hempstead, Oyster
iiay, Jamaica, Southampton, Brookhaven and Johnstown. The
main purpose of these schools was to give religious instruction
and to increase the prestige and influence of the Church of Eng-
land. The curriculum in tiiese schools did not differ materially
from tliat of the Dutch schools. The text used was, of course, in
English instead of Dutch. One material distinction between these
schools and the schools of the Dutch period was that the teachers
of the schools established by this society were licensed by the
Bishop of Canterbury (later the Bishop of London) instead of
by the classis of Amsterdam.

Latin schools were maintained in nearly all the cities of Hol-
land for the purpose of giving students desiring to pursue ad-
vanced study a thorough knowledge of the Latin and Greek lan-
guages. To accomplish this end pupils were prohibited from re-
citing in Dutch. The records show that a Latin school was es-
tablished in New Amsterdam in 1652 and continued for two years.
Jan M. de la Montague was the master. But little is known of
the history of this school. On May 20, 1658, the directors of the
West India company presented a statement to the general di-
rector expressing the desirability of establishing a Latin school,
and on September 19, 1658, the burgomaster and schepens of New
Amsterdam also presented a petition to the council for a master
of a Latin school. It was set forth in this petition that the near-



Online LibraryNew York State Historical Association. MeetingProceedings of the New York State Historical Association : ... annual meeting with constitution and by-laws and list of members (Volume 21) → online text (page 17 of 31)