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During the exciting and troublesome times of the French and Revolutionary wars, we find little in the legislation of the Colony or State relating to education. Latin schools doubtless existed, but they must have been conducted chiefly as private schools. King's College was opened in 1754, and it is to be inferred that schools for preparing candidates must have existed in the city of New York, if not in other towus of the Colony.
INCORPORATION OF ACADEMIES.— It was not, however, till the organization of the University of the State, under the law of 1787, that provision was made for the incorporation of "academies." In the report made to the Board of Regents in 1787, proposing a revision of the law, the committee says: “That liberal protection and encouragement ought to be given to academies for the instruction of youth in the languages and useful knowledge." “ These academies
owing their establishment to private benevolences, labor under disadvantages which ought to be removed.” Accordingly, in the law thereupon enacted, it was made the duty of the Regents to grant articles of incorporation upon the application of the “founders and benefactors of any academy now or hereafter to be established.” At the very first meeting of the Regents after their organization, an application for the incorporation of Erasmus Hall as an academy was received, and at their second meeting both this application and another for the incorporation of Clinton Academy, at East Ilampton, Long Island, were granted. In 1790 North Salem Academy, in Westchester connty, and Farmers' Hall, in Orange county, were incorporated. Two others followed in 1791, and year by year others, so that by 1800 nineteen academies had been incorporated. Of these, the Canandaigua (1795) lay farthest to the west, and Washington Academy (1791), in Washington county, was farthest to the north. During the next ten years the Regents granted cight additional charters, and during the ten years following this, sixteen more. Five others were chartered by the Legislature, making in all, up to 1820, forty-eight chartered academies. Some of these, however, which had been incorporated, had failed to comply with the conditions imposed, and others were unable to obtain a successful footing and had passed out of existence. In the report of the Regents to the Legislature in 1820, only thirty are mentioned as making returns and receiving their share of the Literature Fund. Of the nineteen chartered before 1800, two have been merged into colleges, viz: Schenectady Academy and Ilamilton-Oneida Academy, and twelve still survive, viz.: Erasmus Hall, 1757; Clinton, 1787; North Salem,
1790; Farmers' Hall, 1790; Montgomery, 1791; Washington, 1791; Dutchess County, 1792; Union Hall, 1792; Oxford, 1794; Johnstown, 1794; Canandaigua, 1795; Lansingburgh, 1796.
In granting academic charters in the early days, we have the best evidence that the Regents exercised great discrimination. They not only required satisfactory proof that sufficient funds were provided, and that buildings of a suitable character were or would be furnished, but they refused in many cases to sanction the establishment of new institutions in localities where they were not likely to flourish, or could only flourish by injuring the prosperity of others already founded. In later years recourse was often had to the Legislature for charters, which in general was much less rigorous in its require. ments as to property and outfit. Between 1819 and 1830 more than forty academic charters were granted by the Legislature, in most of which no conditions were imposed. Under the general authority granted to them the Regents, in 1851, established fixed regnlations for chartering academies. They required in all cases that the grounds and buildings should be worth at least $2,000; that the library must be worth at least $150, and the philosophical apparatus $150. They required also that academies chartered by the Legislature, when received under the visitation of the Regents, must hold their building and grounds, library and apparatus, without incumbrance, unless their value were at least $5,000, with incumbrances less than onethird their value. By a law passed in 1851, authority was given to form joint-stock companies for the establishment of academies. The stockholders were empowered to nominate a Board of Trustees, who should hold the property and manage its affairs. Such joint-stock academies, whenever they were shown to be possessed of the amount of property required by the ordinances of the Regents, could be received under visitation and be entitled to the rights and privileges conferred by law on academies.
ACADEMICAL DEPARTMENTS OF UNION SCHOOLS. - The General School Law passed in 1864 contained very important provisions in regard to academic instruction. It gave authority to the Board of Education of any “union free school district to establish in the same an academical department whenever, in their judgment, the same is warranted by the demand for such instruction.” This academical department is by law made subject to the Board of Regents in all matters pertaining to its course of education ; but not in reference to its buildings. The same act further authorizes the Board of Education, after submitting the question to the voters of the district,
and obtaining the consent of the Trustees of the academy, to adopt an incorporated academy existing therein as the Academical Department of the Union School. The academical departments organized under this law are entitled to the same benefits and privileges as the academies of the State. The effect of the passage of this act has been the establishment of many academical departments, or free academies, in the cities and villages of the State. And many of the old incorporated academies have, in like manner, been absorbed into the free school system of the State. Year by year the number of snch academies has been diminished, and that of free academies increased.
The following table shows the changes which have gradually taken place in this particular:
NUMBER OF ACADEMIES AND ACADEMICAL DEPARTMENTS.
STATE AID TO ACADEMIES. The assistance extended to academies in the early history of their establishment consisted in part of
grants of money and in part of donations of land bestowed on them for sites, or to be disposed of for their benefit. In 1786, when the Land Office was established, the law directed that the Surveyor-General, in every township of unoccupied land which he laid out, should set apart and mark on his maps one lot (six hundred and forty acres)
Gospel and schools," and one lot for promoting literature. The land grants were to be at the disposal of the Legislature for the intended object. Accordingly we find frequent enactments as to the sale of these literature lots and the appropriation of the proceeds to the support of academies. In this way, aid was extended to Johnstown Acadenry in 1796, Oxford Academy in 1800, Caynga Academy in 1806, Pompey Academy in 1813, Onondaga Academy in 1914, St. Lawrence Academy in 1816, Lowville Academy in 1818, Montyoinery Academy in 1819, and many others. In other cases, where the academies were not contiguous to unoccupied State lands, or where such lands had already been disposed of, direct grants of money from the State treasury were made. In 1801 a lottery to yield $100,000 was authorized – $25,000 per annum for four years
- of which one-half was to be distributed by the Regents among the academies, and the remaining half to be used for the benefit of common schools.
LITERATURE Fund. -- The liberal policy of the State, in granting aid to academies, was still further exemplified in founding what has been termed the Literature Fund. The origin of this fund may be traced back to 1790, when the Legislature authorized the Regents of the University to take possession of and lease ont certain State lands, and to apply the rents and profits to aid the colleges and academies of the State. In 1813 the Commissioners of the Land Office were directed to sell military and other lands, and to invest the proceeds as a principal sum, whose interest the Regents were authorized to distribute among
the academies under their care. The fund received further additions in conseqnence of an act, passed in 1819, which directed that one-half of all quit-rents and commutations for quit-rents, received by the State, should be appropriated to the increase of the Literature Fund, and the remaining half to the further increase of the School Fund. Furthermore, in 1927, an act was passed conveying to the Literature Fund securities then belonging to the Canal Fund to the amount of $150,000. Up to this time the securities composing the Literature Fund had been held in part by the Comptroller and in part by the Regents; but in 1832 an act was passed transferring all the securities to the custody of the Comptroller, and, since that date, the fund has been managed, as in the case of other funds, by the general financial officer of the State. The following table exhibits the condition of this fund at successive periods :
The income of this fund was, in early years, distributed in two ways. The part of it in the hands of the Regents was apportioned among the academies in proportion to the number of “classical students” in each. The part in the hands of the Comptroller was appropriated from year to year by the Legislature to such colleges and academies as were able to present sufficiently urgent claims. From the returns made by the Regents to the Legislature, we learn the manner of distributing what lay within their jurisdiction. In 1794, the sum of £1,500 was distributed among twelve academies, to be applied to the purchase of books and apparatus, and to the education of indigent youth. In 1503, copies of the lately published State map were presented to the academics. In 1817 a general regulation was made that future distributions should be made in proportion to the number of students pursuing the branches of study preparatory to admission to “well-regulated colleges.” In 1825, each academy was provided with a thermometer and a raingange. In the law passed by the Legislature in 1827, and which was championed by John C. Spencer, it was directed that the basis of distribution should be the pupils " who shall have pursued classical studies, or the higher branches of English education, or both.” The inclusion of higher branches of English, then first made, was for the purpose of encouraging the academies to form classes for the instruction of teachers of common schools. The Revised Statutes, which went into effect in 1829, required that in making this distribution the Regents should divide the amount to be distributed into eight equal portions corresponding to the eight Senatorial districts; and that each of these should be apportioned among the academies of the district. This plan, although palpably unjust and disapproved by the Board of Regents, was continued to 1847. In that year the Legislature, in making the appropriation as required by the new State Constitution, directed that the income of the Literature Fund be distributed by the Regents among the academies in accordance with the old system, and in disregard of the districts.
In the following table are given the amounts distributed, at intervals, in dividends to academies. The great increase as shown by the table in the amount apportioned in 1810 and subsequently, and which began in 1838, is due to the receipt of the United States Deposit Fund and its dedication to education :
Number of schools... 30
118 160 233 260 Number of scholars.. 2,218 4,303 10,881 28,941 30, 438 Number of academic
636 2,222 8,841 16,514 8,485 10,126 Amount apportioned.. $2,500 $10.000 $40,000 $40,000 $40,000 $40,000 Average amt, to each. $83 $172 $339 $259 $171 $154