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In their next year's report,' after expressing their satisfaction at the flourishing condition of the College and the several Academies incorporated in different parts of the State, the prosperity of which they ascribed to the judicious plans of education and government which the Trustees of many of them had recently adopted; to the information they had begun to derive from books and from the apparatus which had been supplied with, and the encouragement in some instances bestowed upon diligent and skillful teachers whose salaries had been judged inadequate for their support, the Regents recurred again to the subject of common schools, and renewed their solicitations in their behalf. They say:
"After another year's experience and observation, we beg leave again to solicit the attention of the Legislature to the establishment of schools for the common branches of education an object of acknowledged importance and extensive utility. Institutions of this description, so well adapted for the diffusion of that kind of knowledge which is essential to the support and continuance of a Repub lican government, are greatly neglected, especially in those parts of our country remote from the Academies. The numerous infant settlements annually forming in our State, chiefly composed of families in very indigent circumstances, and placed in the most unfavorable situations for instruction, appear to call for legislative aid in behalf of their offspring.
"We are emboldened in this manner, with deference, to suggest the means of aiding the cause of learning more extensively, under the pleasing conviction that we address a Legislature whose inclinations dispose, and whose resources enable them to spread useful knowledge through every part of our happy and flourishing State."
Again in 1795, after describing at some length the condition of the two Colleges (Union College having just been incorporated), and twelve Academies under their supervision, the Regents, as if unwilling to lose an opportunity for a word in behalf of primary education, close their report as follows:
"These, with the establishment of schools for common branches. of education, were the Legislature pleased to grant it, must soon have the most beneficial effects on the state of society. The streams issuing from these fountains must enrich the pastures of the wilderness and cause the little hills to rejoice on every side."
Dated January 23, 1794. Senate Journal, 17th Session, p. 16.
* Senate Journal, 18th Session. p. 45. The quotation is italicised as in the Journal.
This gentle reminder, in connection with what had been repeatedly urged before, took effect before the end of this session in the passage of the first act of the Legislature of the State of New York for the encouragement of schools throughout the State.'
It cannot be claimed that this legislation was the direct effect of this advice. It was probably the resultant of public opinion represented in the Legislature, and which had been created and animated by discussion among the intelligent portion of the community, who no doubt in a considerable degree felt the want of a systematic plan of public instruction. The Colleges and Academies had a plan for organization and enlargement - full of hope and promise, and already beginning to show successful results in operation. The extension of these facilities for popular education, suggested and urged by strong arguments, was a natural consequence, and it is but just to claim for the men who formed the Board of Regents of that day a full share of the merits in its adoption.
The first school act lasted but five years. And when it expired by limitation, a dozen years elapsed before a permanent common school system was established. It appropriated £20,000 ($50,000) a year during this period, and fixed the quota by counties; but beyond this, the apportionment was made on the number of taxable inhabitants, and to towns that raised a certain amount of money by tax for school purposes.
The funds derived from the Literature Lotteries of 1801, and from the lands that had been set apart for the support of common schools, having accumulated to some extent, a plan for their application became necessary, and this was particularly mentioned by Governor Tompkins in his message at the opening of the session of 1811, as one of the subjects that ought to attract notice.
An act was accordingly passed April 8, 1811, authorizing the Governor to appoint five Commissioners to report a system for the organization of common schools, and under this act, Jedediah Peck, John Murray, Jr., Samuel Russel, Roger Skinner and Robert Macomb were appointed.
They reported February 7, 1812,' and the system began under this recommendation has been continued with sundry changes to the present time.
1 Chap. 75, passed April 9, 1795, entitled "An act for the encouragement of schools." Laws of 18th Session (folio), p. 50.
1 Assembly Journal, 1812, p. 102.
The School Fund at that time consisted of the following items:
Bonds and mortgages for part of the consideration
money of lands sold by the Surveyor-General..... $240,370 67 Three hundred shares of the capital stock of the Merchants' Bank....
150, 000 00
Three hundred shares of capital stock of the Hudson
Mortgages for loans..
Bond of Horatio G. Spafford and sureties for a loan.
Balance in the treasury belonging to the fund....
The revenue consisted of the following items:
Annual interest on loans and mortgages.
Proceeds of the clerk's office of the Supreme Court..
15,000 00 101, 924 52
3,000 00 10,000 10
35,831 13 2,338 37
$558, 464 69
$21,766 95 14, 850 00
1,600 00 7,000 00
$45, 216 95
Of the 500,000 acres of land which the Legislature had ordered to be sold for the benefit of the school fund there remained 301,492.3 acres, and the time was near when $50,000 could be distributed annually.
It is not our purpose to notice the common school system of the State further than it may relate to the instruction of teachers in Academies and the Normal Schools. We have deemed it proper to give these details of the origin of the system, because the Regents as a body had taken action strongly favoring legislative aid and some efficient plan of management. It does not, however, appear that any effort was ever made for placing the common school system of the State under the care of the Regents, it being uniformly regarded that their proper duties should be limited to the supervision of the higher department in education and to the general interests of litera
ture and science.
GENERAL OUTLINE OF HISTORY IN LATER YEARS.
It may be noticed that the activity shown by the Regents in the first years was not uniformly sustained; at least so far as may be learned from their annual reports. A system of printed blanks came into use in 1804, and for four years statistics of attendance were published in detail. But after this the reports became very brief, simply stating in a few words the numbers in attendance in Colleges, the numbers graduating, and as to Academies that their affairs "were in a flourishing condition," without further specification.
The awakening of interest, which appeared about 1818, may be ascribed to the results of legislation begun some years before, which had laid the foundation of a permanent Literature Fund, and had placed it under the Regents' control.
As this fund began to be productive, it became necessary to devise rules for its distribution. In 1827 it was largely increased, and more definite provision was made by law for the apportionment with the view of encouraging a higher grade of scholarship than had formerly been sustained.
The various provisions of law in force at the time of their adop tion were embodied in the Revised Statutes, which took effect at the beginning of 1830. They introduced some new features, one of them providing for an equal division of the income of the Literature Fund among the eight senatorial districts of the State. The operation of this rule will be particularly noticed in the following pages.
The act of 1827, by which the sum of $150,000 was added to the capital of the Literature Fund, appears from its title to have been intended to promote the education of teachers in the common schools, although no provision was expressly made for that purpose in the body of the act.
In 1833 the question of providing special education in Academies for the preparation of teachers of common schools came up for discussion, and measures were adopted which in improved form have been continued down to the present time. This subject will be found fully presented in an article prepared by one highly qualified for the task, in the following pages.
By the aid of an appropriation begun in 1834, and continued annually since that time, the libraries and apparatus of Academies have been steadily increased, but in no instance has this aid been fur
nished without evidence beforehand that an equal amount had been raised from other sources than invested funds, and proof afterward that the whole sum had been properly applied.
In 1835, the condition of Colleges and Academies began to be published in greater detail, and from this time we may begin to date the series of educational statistics, which illustrate so fully the history of the Colleges and Academies of New York, and in which this State stands alone- for in no other State in the Union has there been preserved a record which in even a remote degree can be compared with our own. In fact, before the labors of the National Bureau of Education had begun in recent years to bring together an annual statement of the operation of our educational systems, there were no means whatever for ascertaining the condition of the Colleges and Academies of other States, except by collecting their individual reports, and compiling from them such few statistics as could be brought into comparable form.
The operation of the Board of Regents has been continuous from the beginning, with but slight changes in organization, excepting as new duties have been imposed by law from time to time, requiring new agencies for their execution, and new rules for their manageThe Constitutional Conventions of 1821 and of 1846 found no occasion to place any limitations with regard to its operations, and scarcely mentioned it excepting by way of inquiry as to certain matters under its charge.
In the convention of 1867-68 numerous petitions were presented asking for a provision abolishing the office, and creating a single department, including in its charge all the educational institutions of the State. These were met by other petitions praying for the maintenance of the Board in its present form, and as the result, the form of a constitution recommended at that time left the subject as before. While the question of adoption of this constitution was still under discussion, a legislative inquiry was made, which we may here notice:
THE POWERS OF A BOARD OF VISITATION OF COLLEGES AND ACADEMIES THE QUESTION OF A CHANGE OF ORGANIZATION CON
On the 8th of May, 1869, the following resolution was adopted by the Senate, and communicated to the Regents of the University:
"Resolved, That the Regents of the University be instructed to report to the next Legislature what, in their judgment, should be the