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I. SAMUEL S. RANDALL,
BCPiRnmnroKMT Of Public Instruction nr Thb Oitt Oi Kkw Tore.
Samuel S. Randall, who for more than a quarter of a century, has been connected with the administration of the system of Common Schools in the State of New York, was born May 27, 1809, at Norwich, Chenango County. After passing through the ordinary district schools of the neighborhood, he was transferred to Oxford Academy in 1823, and, having been fitted for college under the tuition of Rev. Dr. Andrews, now of Binghamton, entered Hamilton College in 1824, then under the presidency of the Rev. Dr. Davis. At the end of the Sophomore year, he left that institution to prosecute the study of the law in the office of Messrs. Clark & Clapp, at Norwich, and in 1830, was admitted^to the bar, and practiced the profession for several years in his native town.
In May 1837, Mr. Randall was appointed by the Secretary of State and ex-officio Superintendent of Common Schools, Gen. Dix, as a clerk in the department of Common Schools. Gen. Dix was at that time engaged in the preparation and publication of a volume of "Common School Decisions and Laws" and this, together with the correspondence of the department, and the examination and decision of appeal cases from the several school districts, required the active services of an efficient clerk, who acted under his constant dictation. During this period, the District Library System was inaugurated and carried into effect. In 1839, Gen. Dix was superseded in the charge of the department by the Hon. John C. Spencer, who immediately upon his accession, with that indefatigable energy, industry, and perseverance, which so eminently characterized him, entered upon the task of a complete revision and modification of the Common School System, in which he was essentially aided by Mr. Randal], whose services were retained under the new organization. By the provisions of the new act, drawn up by Mr. Spencer, and which passed the legislature in 1840, the Superintendent was authorized to appoint a General Deputy, arid the Board of Supervisors of the respective counties in the State, were required to appoint
Deputy or County Superintendents, who, under the direction of the State Superintendent were charged with the visitation and examination of schools, the licensing of teachers, and the hearing and decision in the first instance of appeals. Mr. Randall was appointed General Deputy Superintendent, and charged with the general correspondence of the department, which had now become very voluminous, and the examination of cases on appeal from the decision of the County Superintendents. During the administration of Mr. Spencer, the "District School Journal" edited by Francis Dwight, Esq., was transferred from Geneva to Albany, and Mr. Randall became a frequent contributor to, and subsequently an associate editor until the death of Mf. Dwight, when the entire conduct of the Journal passed into his hands. In 1842, Mr. Spencer having been appointed by President Tyler, Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Randall became acting Superintendent, and continued to discharge the duties of that position until the election of the Hon. Samuel Young, in the ensuing year. Col. Young immediately on his accession appointed Mr. Randall General Deputy Superintendent, devolving upon him, without restriction, the entire charge of the department; and although differing in the outset with his predecessors as to the expediency and policy of continuing the County Superintendent System, was induced by Mr. Randall to give the system a fair trial and examination, which resulted in a strong conviction of its excellence and value, and an unalterable determination to sustain and carry it into effect. Under his administration, and through the agency of the County Superintendents, comprising some of the ablest and most intelligent men of the State, the system of public instruction attained an efficiency which has never since been surpassed, or even equaled. The State Normal School was established and organized; the several districts were thoroughly visited, the teachers subjected to a rigid examination, county institutes held, local dissensions and controversies equitably and speedily settled, State conventions of County Superintendents held; and energy, vigor, and progress infused into the entire system. Col. Young was succeeded in 1845, by N. S. Benton, Esq., of Herkimer, who continued Mr. Randall in the position he had so long held, the duties of which he continued to perform until the autumn of 1846, when he was compelled by failing health, induced by his severe and unremitting labors, to resign the position and spend a few years in a southern clime for the recovery of his exhausted physical energies. The following extract from Hammond's " Political History of New York" will serve to show the high appreciation of Mr. Randall's services and character, recorded by this eminent statesman and enlightened friend of education:—
"In framing this bill," referring to the amended Common School Act of 1842. "Mr. Spencer was powerfully aided by his Deputy Superintendent, S. S. Randall, Esq., one of the most worthy and excellent of men, who was himself competent to preside over any educational bureau in the United States. A deep debt of gratitude is due from the people of this State to this talented and zealous friend of popular education for his services in that great and good cause. He was by profession and in principle, a Whig, and was brought into the department while the government was administered by the Whigs; but CoL Young, notwithstanding, when he became Secretary of State, retained him in office. Mr. Young, it is true, was an ardent politician; but this noble act proves that with him, the cause of popular education was paramount to all others. It is deeply to be regretted that the state of Mr. Randall's health has compelled him to abandon the office and migrate from the State."
During his sojourn at the South, Mr. Randall visited the principal towns and cities, lecturing on the subject of education at Washington, Richmond, Leesburg, and other places. In 1849, he was recalled to the position he had formerly occupied in the school department, by the Hon. Christopher Morgan, who had succeeded Mr. Benton, and resumed the entire charge of the system, which he continued to administer until the end of Mr. Morgan's term.* In the struggle which chiefly characterized this period, for the estate lishment of the Free School system, Mr. Randall took an active and decided part; and it was to a very great extent owing to his personal and indefatigable exertions that .this great measure was finally carried through all the forms of legislation, and became the settled policy of the state. At the termination of this contest, and of Mr. Morgan's administration, Mr. Randall again resigned his position, and took up his residence at Washington, where he was tendered an appointment in the War Department, which he held until November, 1853, when he accepted the appointment of City Superintendent of the Public Schools of Brooklyn. This position, however, he held only for a few weeks, when he was again, and for the third time, recalled to the State department by Superintendent Leavenworth, in January, 1854. Soon afterwards the legislature passed an act, on the special recommendation of Mr. Leavenworth, and his predecessor in office, Hon. (II. S. Randall,) separating the supervision of common schools from the office of Secretary of State and organizing it as an independent department. Mr. Randall became a candidate for the head of this department, but was defeated by the Hon. Victor M. Rice, the present incumbent; and after remaining for a few months, and assisting Mr. Rice, as his deputy, in the organization of the new department, he was appointed in the summer of 1854, City Superintendent of Public Schools in the city of New York, to which position he has been four times unanimously reelected, and which he still (1863) continues to hold.
* The legislature having passed aa Act authorizing a revision and consolidation of all the school laws into one act. Got. Hunt appointed Mr. Randall as a Commissioner for this purpose, who accordingly at the ensuring session discharged the duty thus devolved upon him.
Mr. Randall commenced his career in the common school department at about the same period that Horace Mann, entered upon the discharge of his duties as Secretary of the Board of Education in Massachusetts, and Henry Barnard, as State Superintendent of Connecticut, and afterwards of Rhode Island. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, gave the first great impulse to those efforts in behalf of popular education, which have subsequently extended over almost the entire area of the free states of our Union. In conjunction with these fellow-laborers, with the late lamented Col. Young, John C. Spencer, David P. Page, and Francis Dwight, and such men as Bishop Potter, of Pennsylvania, Henry S. Randall, of Courtland, William F. Phelps, of New Jersey, and Messrs. Bulkley and Valentine, of Brooklyn, and other names identified with the cause of public instruction, he has spent the best years of his life in endeavoring to advance the intellectual and moral interests of the rising generation, and to diffuse the blessings of education broadcast over the land.
From the accession of Mr. Spencer to the Superintendency of the School Department; through all the subsequent administrations of Col. Young, Mr. Benton, Mr. Morgan, and Mr. Leavenworth, Mr. Randall actually conducted all the business pertaining to that department; and with very rare exceptions, all the correspondence of the department, the preparation of the annual reports to the legislature, the decision of cases on appeal, the apportionment and payment of the public money, and the records of the office passed exclusively through his hands. It was not until after the department was separated from the office of Secretary of State, that any provision existed even for clerk-hire, and the labor now performed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Deputy Superintendent, and some half-dozen clerks, was then thrown upon him alone. In 1845, he compiled a digest of the Common School system and laws, with a history of its origin and progress, which passed through