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learning as may enable them to read perfectly the English language, to forfeit twenty shillings; and the selectmen of every town are required to know the state of the families, &c.” Not long afterwards a law was made, that when any town increased to the number of one hundred families, they should set up a grammar school, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so far as that they may be fitted for the University, under certain penalties. To these schools, after a few years, academies were added; thus forming a system of general education, which has been from time to time improved, and which in the eighteenth century became one of the distinguished honours of New-England.
It was not till towards the close of the seventeenth century that a seminary of respectable character, for general instruction in literature and science, was established in Virginia. The original settlers of that colony were, in several respects, of a very different description from their countrymen who settled in New-England. But a small portion of them could boast of any considerable acquirements or taste in literature. Actuated chiefly by the love of gain in coming to a rude and uncultivated country, they directed their principal attention to this object, and neglected most other concerns. Besides, not being so much under the influence of religious principles as their eastern brethren, nor feeling in so high a degree the necessity of literary institutions for the promotion of ecclesiastical as well as civil prosperity, they might naturally have been expected to be more indifferent about their establishment. And
; The author does not mean to intimate that the first settlers in Virgi, ia were destitute of Religion; but merely, (what he takes for granted every one will readily admit,) that Religion seems to have been a less prominent object, and to have entered less into their motives and plans in forming the scttlement, than in New-England.
to crown all, being formed of members who, though chiefly from one country, were less equal in station, less homogeneous in character, and less united by common sufferings, it was not to be supposed that they would act with the same harmony and zeal, in any pursuit which had public good for its object.
Hence, during a great part of the seventeenth century, the southern colonists paid but little attention to literary institutions. Such as wished to give their sons a liberal education, and could afford the expense, sent them to Europe for this purpose, and generally to some of the universities of Great Britain. This practice, indeed, was continued by many for a long time afterwards; and accordingly it happened that, until near the middle of the eighteenth century, by far the greater proportion of the young men of the Southern States who were liberally educated, had received their education at European seminaries. Those who could not afford to adopt this plan were obliged to content themselves either with such private tuition as they could command, or with the miserable system of instruction pursued in the few small and ill-conducted schools which had been formed.
Such was the low state of literature in Virginia when the Rev. James BLAIR, who went to that colony as a missionary about the year 1685, obserying the great want of seminaries for the religious and moral, as well as literary instruction of the youth; and perceiving among other evils the obstacles which this presented to the success of his missionary labours, formed the design of erecting and endowing a college at Williamsburgh. For this purpose he not only solicited benefactions from the colonists, but also made a voyage to England in 1693, to obtain the patronage of the government, and a charter for the proposed institution. King William and Queen Mary being then on the throne, the application of Mr. Blair was favourably received; a patent was immediately made out for erecting and endowing a seminary, under the name of " William and Mary College,” agreeably to his request, and the plan soon went into operation. He was named in the charter as the first president, and acted in that capacity till the year 1742."
This college, though liberally endowed, has not flourished so much as its friends could wish. For more than seventy years after its establishment, it had rarely more than twenty students at any one time. The habit of sending young men to Europe for their education had continued so long, that many of the more wealthy persisted in it after they had a college erected among themselves. Within a few years past the number of students has considerably increased, and the prospects of the Institution are becoming much more favourable.
A The laudable exertions of Mr. Blair are mentioned with great respect by. Bishop BURNET, in his History of bis Own Times. See vol. iv. p. 174. | The object declared in the charter was,
to found and establish a certain place of universal study, or perpetual College, for Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences.” But neither Theology nor the Hebrew language appear to have been so much studied here as at Cambridge in Massachusetts.
m The Rev. James Blair was born and educated in Scotland, where he obtained a benefice in the Episcopal church. On account of the unsettled state of religion which then existed in that kingdom, he quitted his preferments and went into England, near the end of the reign of CHARLES 11. The bishop of London, considering him as well qualified for the office, both as to talents and piety, prevailed on him to go to Virginia as a missionary, where he was highly popular and eminently useful; and in 1689 obtained the appointment of ecclesiastical Commissary for the Province. Though the charter was given for “ William and Mary College,” about the year 1693, and though he was named therein as the first President, yet he does not appear to have entered on the duties of this office till the year 1729, from which period until 1742, he discharged them with faithfulness. Mr. Blair was a learned and exemplary man, respected and useful in his various official stations, and died in a good old age, in 1743. He published four octavo volumes of discourses, under the following title : Saviour's Divine Sermon on the Mount explained; and the Practice of it recommended in divers Sermons and Discourses.” London, 1742. This work is spoken of with high approbation by Dr. DODDRIDGE, in his Family Expositor.
Neither in New York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, nor Maryland, had any thing taken place, in favour of literature, worthy of notice, prior to the eighteenth century. The inhabitants of these colonies, struggling with the difficulties of new settlements, not always in a state of perfect harmony among themselves, and, of course, too frequently encumbered with other engagements, did little to advance the interests of knowledge. A few schools were established; but they were on a small scale, were but indifferently conducted, and attracted but few pupils. The more wealthy class in these middle colonies, like their southern brethren, were, at this time, in the habit of sending their sons to Europe for their education; a practice which, though it caused a small portion of the youth in the middle and southern States to be more thoroughly educated than was common in New England, yet rendered education a much more rare attainment among the former than the latter, and, on the whole, exceedingly retarded the progress of literature in the colonies.
It is to be observed, also, that the advancement of literature in the American colonies, during the seventeenth century, was not only retarded by the general poverty of the colonists, and by the numerous difficulties with which they had to struggle while surrounded with tribes of savages, and an uncultivated desert; but also by the erroneous opinions at that time prevailing concerning the liberty of the press. The business of printing was laid under very inconvenient and discouraging restrictions, during a part of this period, in Massachusetts." In
In 1662, twenty-four years after a printing press had been established at Cambridge, the General Court of Massachusetts appointed two persona
the province of New York, for a considerable time, the introduction of a press was entirely prohibited. And it is believed similar restraints took place in some of the other colonies. The influence of such restrictions on the general progress of liberal information could not be otherwise than highly unfavourable.
At the commencement of the eighteenth century, an important seminary of learning rose in Connecticut. A number of the clergy, anxious, more particularly, that means might be adopted for supplying the churches with a succession of learned and able ministers, conceived the design of erecting a College. This was accordingly soon attempted, and with the most happy success. An act of incorporation was obtained from the General Assembly in the year 1701, and the first commencement took place in Saybrook in 1702. The course of instruction adopted in this College was, in general, directed towards those objects which were before mentioned as being most in vogue in New-England. Its establishment is an important era in the literary history of Connecticut. From this institution, as well as from the sister college in Cambridge, many sons have been sent, who have done honour to their Alma Mater, and proved benefactors to the cause of liberal knowledge.
as Supervisors of the press, and prohibited the publishing any books or papers until after they had been examined and approved by them. In 1668 the Supervisors having allowed the celebrated work of THOMAS A. Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, to be printed, the Court interposed, alleging that it “ had been written by a popish minister, and contained some things less safe to be diffused among the people."
o The most of those who graduated on this occasion in Yale College, had previously taken their master's degree at Cambridge, in Massachu
This accounts for a commencement taking place so soon after the erection of the college, and before students could have been carried regularly through an academic course. It must be acknowledged, however, that the American colleges early began to discover that fondness for dealing out their honours with a liberal hand, which has since so much increased, not only in our own country, but also throughout the literary world.