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COPYRIGHT DEPOSm



LOCAL HISTORY



BY



SHERMAN WILLIAMS, Ped. D.

Chief School Libraries Division, Regents of the University
of the State of New York




SYRACUSE. N. Y.

C. W. BARDEEN. PUBLISHER

1915



Copyright. 1915. by C. W. Bardeeo



p



APR 21 1915

©CU 3976 97



This address was delivered Dec. 29, 1914
before the Conference of Academic Princi-
pals of the State of New York, and is
published with the author's consent and
revision.



LOCAL HISTORY

A recent writer has said, "Europeans
regard a general knowledge of the history
of their country, province and city, as an
essential factor in even an elementary
education. Inquiry by the American visi-
tor will lead to the discovery that almost
every intelligent peasant boy is at least
fairly informed about the annals of the
locality; its hetoes are his own, its glory
is reflected in the enthusiasm with which
he recites their deeds to the passing stran-
ger. But when the immigrant, emerging



6 LOCAL HISTORY

from such a background, arrives in America
he is apt to find that those among whom
his social lot is cast know little of our
national history, and naturally nothing
of the career of the state or city ; his children
are not even taught local history in the
public schools. Small wonder if he con-
cludes that America has no history worth
the telling, no state or city heroes worthy
the name; that America "just grew up"
and is merely a land of opportunity in
which to make dollars."

"Can American patriots be made out of



LOCAL HISTORY 7

these foreigners in the face of such neglect?
Can a man be taught to love his country,
or his state, or city, unless he is taught that
great deeds have here been done, that here
high ideals are cherished, that his locality
has been and is a factor in civilizing the
New World? Are even our American
born boys and girls being made into the
same sort of patriots that they rear abroad?
Is it not time that as teachers we pay some
regard to our state and local history; that
we begin to cultivate a taste for this study
in the minds of youth, and therein lay



8 LOCAL HISTORY

the foundation for that love of locaHty,
which is the essence of civic patriotism?"
What do you think of this arraignment?
Is it justified by facts ? Let us see ! People
who cross an ocean 3,000 miles wide to make
permanent homes in this country, people
who break all home ties to do this, who
come to this country because they had not
prospered where they were, or who had
been treated unjustly in the land of their
birth, or who were so bound down by laws
and customs that there was not a hopeful
outlook for them or for their children.



LOCAL HISTORY »

would not, one would think, care over-
much for the land of their nativity, how-
ever much they might be attached to the
friends whom they left behind. But this
is not the case. They have been so in-
stilled with patriotism that they are not
willing to forget the home land, or to put
the new home above it. So we have Irish-
Americans, German-Americans, Italian-
Americans, and so on. In some parts of
the Canadian northwest the majority of
the settlers came from the United States,
but do you hear of their calling themselves
American-Canadians ?



10 LOCAL HISTORY

It may be claimed that this is merely
sentiment. Is it? A man who is proud
of his family is likely to be a better member
of it on that account. One who is proud
of his race is likely to be a better man for
that reason. A man who is proud of the
community in which he lives is likely to
help make it a better place in which to
live; a man who is proud of his state or
country is likely to be a better citizen be-
cause of such pride. But how can one
have any intelligent pride in his country
if he knows nothing of its history, its strug-



LOCAL HISTORY 11

gles, its triumphs, its people, and the
principles for which it has stood?

The people of New York have been
specially negligent in this matter — more so
than any of the other original states, even
more so than most of the newer ones — yet
no other state has so proud a history.
But we allow our children to grow up
knowing less of the history of New York
than they do of the history of Massachu-
setts, or Pennsylvania, or Virginia. They
have a fuller and better knowledge of the
history of Greece, or Rome, or Great



12 LOCAL HISTORY

Britain than they have of the state in which
they live.

And we encourage them in this. It is
because of the way history is taught in
our schools that such a condition exists.
How long shall we continue to act as though
we considered a knowledge of the history
of Ireland — a country of fewer than 5
million inhabitants, 3,000 miles away —
more important to our children than the
history of their own state, having more
than 9 million inhabitants? How long
shall we continue to take more pains to



LOCAL HISTORY 13

instruct the pupils in our schools in regard
to the history of a small country which
most of them have never seen and never
will see, than to make them familiar with
the history of the great state in which most
of them will spend their entire lives?

Why does this condition of affairs exist?
Is it because we ourselves do not know the
great part our state has played in history?
Possibly. Andrew S. Draper once said
"New York made history and Massachu-
setts wrote it."

Permit me to call your attention to some



14 LOCAL HISTORY

historical facts that ought to be more than
a "twice told tale" and will be to some of
you. I hope that may be the case with
all of you, but I fear it will not be. Com-
pared with the history of the other original
states that of New York is unique. The
other colonies were settled by those who
sought political or religious liberty or both.
The Dutch who settled New York sought
neither as they had both at home. They
came solely for business. The settlers of
Massachusetts sought religious liberty and
obtained it, but they did not grant it to



LOCAL HISTORY 15

others: witness the persecutions of the
Quakers. Except New York no other
colony granted perfect religious liberty;
even the famous toleration act of Mary-
land would not be thought very tolerant
now. Save for a short time during the
administration of the autocratic Stuyve-
sant, the people of New York enjoyed
perfect religious liberty. If one was loyal
to the government, no matter what his
religious faith, he enjoyed every right and
privilege that was given to any one.

We have had dinned into our ears, in



16 LOCAL HISTORY

season and out of season, the principles
and the work of Samuel Adams, and have
been called upon to become enthusiastic
over the Boston speech of James Otis, and
the Richmond oration of Patrick Henry,
and to revere the principles they promul-
gated, but how many of us know of the
resolutions passed by the Colonial Assem-
bly of New York half a century earlier,
in which the same principles were enun-
ciated and with no less force?

We all know of the Boston Tea Party
with its picturesque features, but how many



LOCAL HISTORY 17

know that there was a New York tea party
at an earlier date, lacking the picturesque
features of the Boston affair but not one
whit behind it so far as devotion to a prin-
ciple was concerned?

How much do your pupils know of the
trial of John Peter Zenger, the principles
involved, and the far-reaching conse-
quences? It was perhaps the most im-
portant single event in all our political
history, as it reversed the old English law
of libel, and established the freedom of
the press.



18 LOCAL HISTORY

Let US take a single illustration from
among the many from which choice might
be made to show how Massachusetts has
always exploited and magnified her his-
tory, which is to her credit, and how New
York has ignored hers, which is a disgrace
to us.

The battle of Bunker Hill has been told
in story, song and picture till every school-
boy knows it by heart. It is as real to him
as though it were actually taking place
before his very eyes. He sees the British
troops land. He sees them form in line.



LOCAL HISTORY 19

He sees the brilliant uniforms and glisten-
ing bayonets. He sees the British in per-
fect alignment approach the American
lines. He sees the line of flame along the
rude redoubt, and hears the rattle of mus-
ketry. He sees scores of the British fall
and the remainder retreat in confusion.
He sees all this repeated and, after a brief
interval, the British form for a third charge
upon the American position. He sees
them throw aside all that would impede
their movements, and with the bull-dog
courage characteristic of the British soldiers



20 LOCAL HISTORY

again ascend the slope. They were not to
be again received with a wasting discharge
of musketry, as the Americans had ex-
hausted their ammunition and were driven
from the field, retreating slowly and sullen-
ly, fighting as they went, with clubbed mus-
kets or whatever came to hand, but in vain.
All this is as clear to him as though it were
actually taking place before his eyes, and
this is well.

But the battle of Bunker Hill was not
followed by any momentous consequences.
It did not change history. If the battle



LOCAL HISTORY 21

had never been fought, or if it had been
fought and the patriots had fled like fright-
ened sheep at the first charge of the British,
the result would have been the same.
There would still have been a great patriot
army gathered about Boston. The British
would still have been compelled to abandon
the city. It is not claimed that the battle
of Bunker Hill was of no account. Far
from it. It did much to cheer and en-
courage the patriots. It showed them that
it was possible for untrained, undisciplined,
and poorly equipped men to withstand a



22 LOCAL HISTORY

charge of British regulars; but the battle
did not change history nor was it followed
by any momentous consequences.

The next year there was a battle fought
in the state of New York that was followed
by momentous consequences, that did
change history. It was the most stub-
bornly contested and the bloodiest battle
in that great struggle. I allude, of course,
to the battle of Oriskany, which sealed the
fate of Burgoyne and led to the French
alliance. But does every schoolboy know
that by heart? Has he had that in story,



LOCAL HISTORY 23

song and picture? Does he see that as
though it were actually taking place before
his eyes? NO! Some of our school text-
books on American history do not even
mention it, and very few of them recognize
its importance.

New York is rich in history. She is an
empire in herself with the history of an
empire. Her important history does not
receive adequate treatment in any general
school history of our country, and can not.
Much of the important part of the history
of our state is not mentioned or alluded



24 LOCAL HISTORY

to in our school histories. If our children
are to know the history of our state as they
should, it must be taken up as an indepen-
dent study, and it is well worth a year of
study. Pardon me if in the attempt to
show why the history of New York should
be given more attention I weary you with
a repetition of much that you know well.
New York is geographically the most
important state in the Union. It was fore-
ordained that she should be great. That
matter was settled when the continent was
formed.



LOCAL HISTORY 25

The Hudson river flows through the only
low-lying, wide-open gap in the whole
Appalachian mountain system from the
St. Lawrence river on the north to the
Gulf of Mexico on the south. Up as far
as the Highlands, the Hudson is really an
arm of the sea. The tide rises and falls
at Troy, so that it is practically a dead
level for 150 miles north of New York.

From Albany to the West for more than
100 miles, the Mohawk valley is a very easy
grade, and from that point to Lake Erie
the route is also an easy one. The physi-



26 LOCAL HISTORY

cal geography of the country made it cer-
tain that the West would find an outlet
to the sea through central New York.

Lakes George and Champlain furnish
water connection between the Hudson and
the St. Lawrence, with the exception of a
short distance. Except for a short carry
between Fort Edward and Whitehall, there
is an all water route from New York to
Montreal. This controls most of the trade
between Canada and the eastern part of
the United States.

Another northern route is up the Mo-



LOCAL HISTORY 27

hawk, across to Oneida lake, and down
the Oswego river to Lake Ontario.

Through the Wallkill and Rondout
rivers and the Esopus creek, the head-
waters of the Delaware and the eastern
branches of the Susquehanna are easily
reached, opening a way to a vast stretch
of country. The headwaters of the east-
ern branches of the Susquehanna may also
be reached with a short carry by the way of
the Mohawk river and the Schoharie creek.

By going up the Genesee river, one may
by short carries reach the headwaters of



28 LOCAL HISTORY

the western branches of the Susquehanna
and so reach a large portion of the southern
part of the state or, turning to the south,
reach the headwaters of the Alleghenny
and the Ohio and Mississippi valleys.

The rivers that have their source in cen-
tral New York open the way to an enor-
mous area of country. This fact made
the Iroquois confederacy powerful. It
also made New York of great strategic
importance during the Revolution. It
gives us the great Central railroad with
its numerous connections north and south.



LOCAL HISTORY 29

It gives us the Erie canal and, through
that, the commercial supremacy of the
country.

Physical geography has made New York
the greatest manufacturing state in the
Union. It has made her rich and popu-
lous. It has made her in all respects fit
to be called the Empire state. A great
state produces great men, and great men
help to make a great state. Our pupils
ought to know something of the men and
women who have written their names large
in the history of the state and the nation.



30 LOCAL HISTORY

Bear with me as I call your attention to a
few of these and the things that they did.
To Alexander Hamilton, an adopted
son of New York, we owe the fact that we
have a government worthy of the name.
The convention at Philadelphia formed a
constitution and submitted it to the various
states for approval. The approval of New
York was absolutely necessary to success.
While the necessary number of states
might have approved the constitution
without New York, it would not become
operative in the case of any state that did



LOCAL HISTORY 31

not adopt it, and if New York alone failed
we should have a country made up of two
sections separated by a foreign state.

The New York convention met at Pough-
keepsie. Nearly two-thirds of the dele-
gates were opposed to the adoption of the
Federal constitution, and were pledged to
vote against it. Among the number so
opposed was George Clinton, the governor
of the state and a very strong man, who
was chosen chairman of the convention,
and Melancthon Smith, one of the greatest
lawyers of his time. This was a discourag-



32 LOCAL HISTORY

ing outlook, but Hamilton was not dis-
mayed, and his great ability and untiring
labors finally convinced the members of
the convention that the welfare of New
York, as well as the welfare of the nation,
demanded the adoption of the Federal
constitution.

While one son of New York gave us a
form of government another, Robert Liv-
ingston, gave us a country to govern.
But for him the United States would have
consisted of a narrow strip of land along
the Atlantic coast. The fact that the vast



LOCAL HISTORY ' 33

Mississippi valley and land to the west
of that is ours is due to the courage and
persistence of Livingston. This story
would require many pages for its fair pre-
sentation and I can only allude to it here.

Another great acquisition of territory,
the value of which we are just beginning
to see dimly — the purchase of Alaska —
was solely the work of William H. Seward.

The Erie canal, with its many enlarge-
ments and extensions, changed and to a
great extent made the history of the state
and the great middle west. It was solely



34 LOCAL HISTORY

the work of New York, and its successful
accomplishment was chiefly due to the
untiring efforts of DeWitt Clinton. How
much do our pupils know of Hamilton,
Livingston, Seward, and Clinton so far as
their relation to the history of New York
is concerned?

Our children are led to speculate as to
who were the earliest inhabitants of Greece.
How much do they know of the Indians of
New^ York? Yet the Iroquois played a
most important part in the history of our
state and of the nation. Had the Iroquois



LOCAL HISTORY 35

taken the side of the French, it is probable
that New England, New York, and the
states along the Great Lakes would be
French in population, laws, and customs,
if not in government, as is the province of
Quebec today.

Our pupils know much of the lives of
Benjamin Franklin, of Samuel Adams, of
Patrick Henry, and many other prominent
men of the other states, but how much do
they know of Sir William Johnson, who
rendered incalculable service through his
control of the Iroquois? What do they



36 LOCAL HISTORY

know of John Jay, the author of the first
constitution of the state of New York,
one of the commissioners to negotiate a
peace with Great Britain, the first chief
justice of the state of New York, the first
chief justice of the United States, the presi-
dent of the first society for the abohtion
of slavery, governor of the state of New
York, delegate to the Continental Con-
gress, president of Congress, secretary of
foreign affairs, minister to Spain and to
Great Britain — a man who had an im-
portant part in nearly every great move-



LOCAL HISTORY 37

merit of his time? How much do they
know of a score of other men of New York
who were among the foremost men of the
nation ?

What are our children taught of the part
taken by the men of New York in the great
struggle for supremacy on this continent?
Surely, not a matter of little moment and
equally surely a matter in which New York
distinguished herself. Of this struggle
Parkman says, "It was feudalism against
democracy; popery against protestantism;
the sword against the plowshare; the issue



38 LOCAL HISTORY

was long in doubt because it was union
confronting division; energy confronting
apathy; military centralization opposed
to industrial democrary." It was really
a struggle between greatly differing forms
of civilization, and the outcome was to
affect greatly the history of the world.
Because of its physical geography, New
York had to be the leading figure in that
great struggle ; yet our children know it as a
series of French and Indian wars, without
a glimmering of the part our state took
in it, and with but little comprehension of
what it all meant.



LOCAL HISTORY 39

How many know that for a long time
Albany was one of the most important
colonial centres and, for a time, was prac-
tically the colonial capital? Here were
held numerous meetings for making trea-
ties with the Indians that affected nearly
every one of the colonies, and here came
representatives from every colony and from
every Indian tribe of consequence. How
many know that it was at Albany, at a
meeting of a Congress held in 1754, that
the first steps were taken toward the union
of the colonies? How many realize that



40 LOCAL HISTORY

it was at Albany that every continental
and British army gathered for movements
against Montreal, Crown Point, or Ticon-
deroga?

Our pupils are painfully ignorant of the
part taken in the Revolution by the people
of New York. Until recently New York
has received little credit compared with
what she deserved. It has been written
again and again that New York was a Tory
colony and did not furnish her quota of
troops, yet the records show that she fur-
nished 51,979 men, far more in proportion



LOCAL HISTORY 41

to her population than were furnished by
any other colony. Likewise, she furnished
more money in proportion to her wealth
than did any other colony.

She suffered from the War of the Revolu-
tion far beyond any other state. Massa-
chusetts hardly saw a foe after the first
year of the struggle, but from the first to
the last, even for two years after Yorktown
when hostilities ceased elsewhere, New
York was a constant scene of warfare.
The first, the last, the bloodiest, and the
decisive battles of the Revolution were all



42 LOCAL HISTORY

fought on the soil of New York. All told,
2 1 battles were fought in New York during
the struggle for independence.

What acquaintance have the children in
our schools with these facts? What op-
portunities are given them while in school
to get this information? New York suf-
fered from the Border wars as did no other
colony. No pen can picture adequately
the horrors of the New York frontier during
the Revolution.

We know so little of our history that we
are disposed to apologize for the lack of



LOCAL HISTORY 43

enterprise and interest in early education
on the part of New York, and the people
of other states, especially New England,
assume a kind of patronizing air that the
facts warrant as little as they do our apolo-
getic attitude.

This is not a time to discuss this matter,
or to say more than that New York has a
proud history in educational matters, and
that pride finds its roots in the attitude
of the early Dutch settlers of our State.
It is true that education languished under
English colonial rule, and during the few



44 LOCAL HISTORY

years immediately after the close of the
Revolution, because of the utter poverty
of our people, a degree of poverty that it is
now very difficult to comprehend. It is
true that Massachusetts was earlier in the
field in the matter of higher education,
that is, the education of those who were
to enter the professions. But in the matter
of the education of the masses Massachu-
setts was and always has been behind New
York, always excepting the time of the
English rule.

I have briefly, very briefly of necessity,



LOCAL HISTORY 45

tried to impress upon you the important
part that New York has taken in history.
I have tried to convince you that it has
been so important in itself, and that it
concerns us so greatly, that it is quite as
worthy of extended study as any history
that could be taught to our children; that
it would be more interesting, and tend
more strongly toward the making of good
citizens than would the study of the history
of Greece or of Ireland.

Who can be expected to respect our his-
tory if we ourselves ignore it? Who will



46 LOCAL HISTORY

think it of importance if we act as though
it were not worthy of study ? How can we
expect our boys and girls to grow to be
men and women who are proud of their
state, and the better because of that pride,
when we ourselves manifest no interest in
it? If otir children do grow up proud of
the state in which they were born, and in
which they are to live, it will not be because
of what they have been taught in our
schools but in spite of the lack of such
instruction. Is our state one to be proud
of? Is her story worth the telling? Has



LOCAL HISTORY 47

she stood for worthy ideals? Have her
accomplishments been worthy of notice?
Can we point with pride to her history, or
do we think it one of which the less said
the better? Let our action correspond
with our belief.





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