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I could read in the Bible. He hesitated a moment, and then placed me on one of the benches, opened a Bible at the fifth chapter of Acts, and asked me to read. [ read ten or a dozen verses being the account of Ananias and his wife falling dead before Peter for telling a lie. Whether he had any suspicion that I had told a falsehood, and took this method to reprove me, I know yot; but he dismissed me with approbation. He used his ferule on the hands of some of the elder boys; but the severest punishment that he inflicted for any violation of order, was compelling a boy who had brought into the school the breast hone of a chicken, (commonly called the wishing-bone,) and with which he had excited some noise among the pupils, to stand on one of the benches and wear the bone on his nose till the school was dismissed. I am strongly impressed with the belief that Webster's Spelling Book made its first appearance in the schools during this winter. The following summer I attended, but very irregularly, a school kept as before in the steeple of the meeting-house, * and had a copy of Webster. Whether there were any other copies in the school or not I am not able to say. The next two winters, circumstances which I have no desire to recall, and which you would not care to be acquainted with, provented my attending any school. In the summer of 1786, these same circumstances caused me to be removed to another district three miles distant from the central village. The farmer with whom I lived thought I could read well enough, and as the district school-house was a mile or more distant, he considered it unnecessary to send me that distance in the winter, merely to read; and cousequently for two or three winters I went to school not more than eight or ten days in each. At length, in 1790 or 1791, it was thought I was old enough to learn to cipher, and accordingly was permitted to go to school more constantly. I told the master I wanted to learn to cipher. He get me a sum in simple addition-five columns of figures, and six figures in each column. All the instruction he gave me was-add the figures in the first column, carry one for every ten, and set the overplus down under the column. I supposed he meant by the first column the left hand column; but what he meant by carrying one for every ten was as much a mystery as Samson's riddle was to the Philistines. I worried my brains an hour or two, and showed the master the figures I had made. You may judge what the amount was, when the columns were added from left to right. The master frowned and repeated his former instruction-added up the column on the right, carry one for every ten, and set down the remainder. Two or three afternoons (I did not go to school in the morning) were spent in this way, when I begged to be excused from learning to cipher, and the old gentleman with whom I lived thought it was time wasted; and if I attended the school any further at that time, reading and spelling, and a little writing were all that was taught. The next winter there was a teacher more communicative and better fitted for his place, and under him some progress was made in arithmetic, and I made a tolerable acquisition in the first four rules, according to Dilworth's Schoolmaster's Assistant, of which the teacher and one of the eldest boys had each a copy. The two following winters, 1794 and 1795, I mastered all the rules and examples in the first part of Dilworth; that is, through the various chapters of Rule of Three, Practice, Fellowship, Interest, etc., etc., to Geometrical Progression and Permutation. In our district, the books were of rather a miscellaneous character, such as
* This was the last time I went to a summer school.
bad been in families perhaps half a century or more. My belief is that Webster's Spelling Book was not in general use before 1790 or 1791. The Bible was read by the first class in the morning, always, and generally in the afternoon before the closing exercise, which was always a lesson in spelling, and this was performed by all the pupils who were sufficiently advanced to pronounce distinctly words of more than one syllable. It was the custom for all such pupils to stand together as one class, and with one voice to read a column or two of the tables for spelling. The master gave the signal to begin, and all united to read, letter by letter, pronouncing each syllable by itself, and adding it to the preceding one till the word was complete. Thus, a-d ad, m-i mi, admi, r-a ra, admira, t-i-o-n shun, admiration. This mode of reading was exceedingly exciting, and, in my humble judgment, exceedingly useful; as it required and taught deliberate and distinct articulation, and inspired the youngest with a desire to equal the older ones. It is true the voices would not all be in perfect unison; but after a little practice they began to assimilate. I have heard a class of thirty or more read column after columu in this manner, with scarcely a perceptible variation from the proper pitch of voice. When the lesson had been thus read, the books were closed, and the words given out for spelling. If one was inisspelt, it passed on to the next, and the next pupil in order, and so on till it was spelt correctly. Then the pupil who had spelt correctly went up in the class above the one who had misspelt. It was also a practice, when one was absent from this exercise in spelling, that he should stand at the foot of the class when be returned. Another of our customs was to choose sides to spell once or twice a week. The words to be spelt went from side to side; and at the conclusion, the side which beut (spelt the most words) were permitted to loave the schoolroom, preceding the other side, who had to sweep the room and build the fires the next morning. These customs, prevalent sixty and seventy years ago, excited emulation, and emulation produced improvement. A revival of them, I have no doubt, would be advantageous in the common schools, especially where pupils are required to spell words given out indiscriminately from a reading book or dictionary. There was not, to my knowledge, any reading book proper, except the Bible, till Webster's Third Book, so called, came out about 1793 or 1794. A new edition of his Spelling Book furnished some new matter for roading-selections from the New Testament, a chapter of Proverbs, and set of Tables, etc.; but none of these operated to the exclusion of the Bible.
In the family in which I lived there were three or four old spelling books, which I presume had been used in schools before the period of my remembrance. One of these was a book of less than a hundred pages, printed in Londou, I think in 1690. The words were arranged in tables according to syllables. The terminations tion, sion, cial, tial, etc., were all divided and printed as two distinct syllables. (And I believe this mode of printing is still continued in England. It was in the time of Lindley Murray, as may be seen in his spelling book, printed about forty years ago.) This spelling book contained a numeration table which, from a singular feature, early attracted my attention. Every figure was 9, and the whole formed a curious triangle. Thus:
999 and so on to the last, 999,999,999
Another spelling book in our farmer's library was by Daniel Fenning, printed in London. It contained a short treatise on grammar, on which I sometimes 'exercised my memory, but understood not one of its principles. We had also a Dilworth, containing certain fables—such as Jupiter and the Frogs, the Romish Priest and the Jester, Hercules and the Wagoner, etc., etc. Another still we had, the author of which I never knew, as several pages had been lost from the beginning. It had a page of proverbs, one of which—"a cat may look upon a king"--occasioned me much thoughtful exercise. It also had an appropriate collection of couplets for writing-copies, of which the only one I recollect was this:
" X things a penman should have near at hand
Paper, pounce, pen, ink, knife, hone, rule, plumpiet, wax, sand." But that which rendered the book so memorable as never to be forgotten, was the astonishing, if not terrific, word of fourteen syllables-" Ho-no-ri-fi-ca-bi-litu-di-ni-tu-ti-bus-que"-asserted to be the longest word in the English language.
In the winter of 1793–4, we had for a teacher ERASTUS RIPLEY, an undergraduate of Yale College. I mention his name, because I can not but look back upon the time when I had the advantage of his instruction without a feeling of reverence for the man and respect for the teacher. I learned more from him than all the schoolmasters I had been under. He took more paing to instruct us in reading than all his predecessors within my knowledge. He opened the school every morning with prayer-which had not been practiced in our district. Ho was preparing for the ministry, and was afterwards settled at Canterbury, I think. He was highly esteemed by all the people of the district, and gave such an impetus to the ambition of the pupils, that a subscription was made to employ him an extra month after the usual term of the school had expired.
Mr. Ripley was succeeded in the winter of 1794-5 by a young man from Lebanon by the name of Tisdale, under whom my school-days were finished ; and here I may bring this long and, I fear, very uninteresting letter to a close. Hoping this may serve the purpose for which you suggested the writing of it, and wishing you all the success you can desire in the noble cause in which you are engaged I am, very respectfully and truly yours,
JOSEPH T. BUCKINGHAM.
LETTER FROM REV. ELIPHALET NOTT, D. D., DATED JAN., 1861. When I was a boy, seventy-five or eighty years ago, in good old Puritan Connecticut, it was felt as a practical maxim " that to spare the rod was to spoil the child;" and on this maxim the pedagogue acted in the school-room, and applied it for every offense, real or imaginary: and for having been whipped at school by the relentless magter, the unfortunate tyro was often whipped at home by his no less relentless father; so that between the two relentless executors of justice among the Puritan fathers, few children, I believe, were spoiled by the withholding of this orthodox discipline. For myself, I can say (and I do not think I was wayward beyond the average of district school-boys) that, in addition to warnings, and admonitions daily, if I was not whipped more than three times a week, I considered myself for the time peculiarly fortunate.
Being of a contemplative and forbearing disposition, this discipline of the rod
became peculiarly irksome to me, and, as I thought, unjustifiable; and I formed & resolution, if I lived to be a man, I would not be like other men in regard to their treatment of children.
Through the mercy of God I did live to be a man, and when at the age of eighteen I became installed as master of a district school in the eastern part of Franklin, Connecticut--a school where rebellious spirits had previously asserted their rights, and been subdued or driven from the school by the use of the rodnothing daunted, I made up my mind to substitute in my school moral motives in the place of the rod; and I frankly told my assembled pupils so, and that if they would have the generosity to second my efforts, they would secure to themselves and furnish me and their parents the happiness which is the heavenappointed reward of well-doing.
The grhool responded to my appeal, and thereafter, though we played and gamboled together as equals in play-hours, and on Saturday afternoons, which were also devoted to play, the moment we entered the school-room, a subordination and application to study was observable, that became matter of remark and admiration among the inhabitants of the district, the fame of which success extended to other districts, and even to adjoining towns, so that the examination and exhibition with which the school closed the ensuing spring, called together clergymen and other officials from places quite remote.
This success brought me to the knowledge of the trustees of the Plainfield Academy, one of the most important, if not at the time the most important academy in the State, and I was by a unanimous vote appointed principal of said academy-an institution in which several hundred children of both sexes were in the samo building successfully taught and governed for years, without the use of the rod, it being at that time the prevailing usage, both in district schools and academies, for the two sexes to be taught in the same room, and subjected to the same form of government.
This successful experiment in the use of moral suasion, and other kindred and kindly influences, in place of the rod, led to other and kindred experiments, until, whether for the better or the worse, the rod at length came to occupy a very subordinate place in the system of school education.
In those days, education in common schools was not so diffusive as at the present day; but quite as thorough, if not more so. The same remark may be applied to the higher schools or academies—the whole field of natural science being at that time, for the most part, unexplored; but mathematics and classics were zealously taught. In evidence of this, though inferior in attainments to some of my classinates, I published successfully myself an almanac when about twenty-one years of age.
As the rod in those days was the principal instrument in common school education, -0. when I was afterward called to Union College, fines, suspensions, and expulsions were the principal instruments of collegiate government. The faculty sat in their robes as a court, caused offenders to be brought before them, examined witnesses, heard defenses, and pronounced sentences with the solemnity of other courts of justice: and though Union College had on its catalogue but a very diminutive number of students, the sitting of the faculty as a court occupied no inconsiderable part of the time of its president and professors.
Soon after I became connected with the college as its president, a case of digpline occurred which led to the trial and issued in the expulsion of a student belonging to a very respectable family in the city of Albany. According to the charter of Union College, the sentence of the faculty is not final. An appeal can be taken to the board of trustees, and in the case in question an appeal was taken, and, after keeping college in confusion for months, by the different hearings of the case, the board reversed the decision of the faculty, and restored the young man. On the event of this restoration, I informed them that they should never, during my administration, have occasion to review another case of discipline by the faculty; and during the fifty-six years which have since passed away, I have kept my word; and thongh we have been less guccessful in our system of parental government than could he wished, we have have had no rebellions, and it is conceded, I believe generally, that quite as large a proportion of our young men have succeeded in after life as of any other collegiate institution in the Union.
RECOLLECTIONS OF PETER PARLEY. The following picture of the District School as it was a few years later, in the town of Ridgefield,* one of the most advanced agricultural communities of Connecticut, is from the pen of Peter Parley, SAMUEL G. GOODRICH,] in his “ Recollections of a Lifetime."
About three-fourths of a mile from my father's house, on the winding road to Lower Salem, which bore the name of West Lane, was the school-house where I took my first lessons, and received the foundations of my very slender education. I have since been sometimes asked where I graduated: my reply bas always been, " At West Lane.” Generally speaking, this has ended the inquiry, whether because my interlocutors have confounded this venerable institution with “Lane Seminary," or have not thought it worth while to risk an exposure of their ignorance as to the college in which I was educated, I am unable to say.
The site of the school-house was a triangular piece of land, measuring perhaps a rood in extent, and lying, according to the custom of those days, at the meeting of four roads. The ground hereabouts-as everywhere else in Ridgefield-was exceedingly stony, and in making the pathway the stones had been thrown out right and left, and there remained in heaps on either side, from generation to generation. All round was bleak and desolate. Loose, squat stone walls, with innumerable breaches, inclosed adjacent fields. A few tufts of elder, with here and there a patch of briers and poke-weed, flourished in the gravelly soil. Not a tree, however, remained, save an aged chestnut, at the
* Nearly all the inhabitants of Ridgefield were farmers, with the few mechanics that were necessary to carry on society in a somewhat primeval state. Even the persons not professionally devoted to agriculture, had each his farm, or at least his garden and home lot, with bis pigs, poultry, and cattle. The population might have been 1,200, comprising 200 families. All could read and write, but in point of fact, beyond the Almanac and Watts' Psalms and Hymns, their literary acquirements had little scope. There were, I think, four newspapers, all weekly, published in the State: one at Hartford, one at New London, one at New Haven, and one at Litchfield. There were, however, not more than three subscribers to all these in our village We had, however, a public library of some 200 volumes, and what was of equal consequence- the town was on the road which was then the great thoroughfare, connecting Boston with New York, and hence it had means of intelligence from travelers constantly passing through the place, which kept it up with the march of events.