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Historic Towns Of New England
BY GEORGE PERRY MORRIS
FROM the earliest days of the New England Colonies down to the present time, those European analysts of our national life, whose opinions have been based on personal observation, have usually conceded that in New England towns and villages one might, at almost any period of their history, find a higher average degree of physical comfort, intelligence and mental attainment, and political liberty and power than was or is to be found in any other communities of Christendom, Thus Alexis de Tocqueville, in 1835, wrote:
"The existence of the townships of New England is, in general, a happy one. Their government is suited to their tastes, and chosen by themselves. . . . The conduct of local business is easy. . . . No tradition exists of a distinction of ranks; no portion of the community is tempted to oppress the remainder; and the abuses which may injure isolated individuals are forgotten in the general contentment which prevails. The native of New England is attached to his township because it is independent and free; his co-operation in its affairs ensures his attachment to its interest; the well-being it affords him secures his affection, and its welfare is the aim of his ambition and of his future exertions. He takes a part in every occurrence in the place; he practises the art of government in the small sphere within his reach; he accustoms himself to those forms which can alone ensure the steady progress of liberty; he imbibes their spirit; he acquires a taste for order, comprehends the union of the balance of powers, and collects clear practical notions on the nature of his duties and the extent of his rights." 1
If this be true, the question inevitably arises, how has it come to pass? New England, as a whole, is far from fertile. Its winters are long and severe. Of mineral wealth it has little. The raw materials for its countless factories and mills, the fuel for its factories, homes, and railroads, must be obtained in the territory south and west of the Hudson River. The cereals which furnish the staple diet of its people come from Western plains. Its best blood and brawn have gone to found commonwealths ranging from the Alleghany to the Sierra Nevada mountains, and, into towns once populated and dominated by the purest of English stock, there have come Irish from Ireland and Canada, French by way of Canada, Portuguese, Italians, and Jews from Russia, so that, in 189o, the alien male adult population of the several States was found by the Federal census takers to be, in Maine, 51.43 per cent.; New Hampshire, 50.5 per cent.; Vermont, 41.25 per cent.; Massachusetts, 46.10 per cent.; Rhode Island, 49.78 per cent.; Connecticut, 36.52 per cent.
And yet, notwithstanding these economic disadvantages, this depletion of a population inheriting noble ideals, and the infusion of a class of settlers holding, in many instances, political and religious convictions quite at variance with those of the founders of the colonies, the "type" persists, The New England towns are still unlike, and in some respects superior to, those of other sections of the country, The New England States still lead in reformatory legislation. New England's approval or disapproval of ideas affecting national destiny still has weight with Congress and Presidents altogether disproportionate to the number of her representatives in Congress or her votes in the Electoral College.
If one will walk about New England towns one will find in each a church, a town-house, and a school, and in most of them a railroad station and a factory. In the majority of them there will also be a public library, small perhaps and usually housed in the town-house, but open to all, and supported from the publiC funds. In the larger towns, especially in those where manufacturing is a prominent factor in the communal prosperity, a hospital, supported by public taxation, is open to all. In almost every town there is a grass-covered, tree-shaded "common," which serves as a village or town park, and on it usually stand memorial tablets or statues testifying to the valor of the dead who went forth to fight in the War of the Revolution or in the Civil War.
The church symbolizes that belief in God and that disposition to obey His will and law which the noblest and wisest men of all ages and climes have agreed upon as the sine qua non of civic as well as of individual prosperity, and in this instance it also stands for that separation of Church and State which our national experience—and that of Canada and the Australian Colonies as well—shows to be the ideal relation. That for a time, in the early days of Massachusetts and Connecticut, there was an unsuccessful attempt to preserve a union of State and Church, an attempt which had for some of its least commendable incidents the wholesale hanging of men and women for witchcraft, the expulsion of Quakers, and the ostracism or exclusion of Roman Catholics and Anglicans, is not to be denied.
That the people of New England have been duly conscientious is apparent by the multiplication of churches at home, and by their never- ceasing, overflowing gifts to establish churches, colleges, schools, and Christian missions in the South and West and in foreign lands. It is from the thrifty, prosperous, philanthropic New Englander that the treasuries of the great Protestant missionary and educational societies receive their largest average per-capita gifts, and it is to New England that the steps of the Western and Southern educator still turn for endowments which his State may not, or the people cannot, or do not, give.
Peopled by inhabitants given over to introspection, and as fond of theology as the Scotch, the early New England communities were intensely religious and sectarian, God to them was a Personal Sovereign, intimately concerned with their daily life, They were His chosen people, and, as such, pledged to obedience to His service, The Church was His Bride; the clergyman was His spokesman, and received the deference—social as well as official—which was due to one so augustly commissioned, The social as well as the intellectual life of the community centred almost exclusively in the life of the church and the sermons of its clergy. Sectarian animosities were the inevitable product of a mistaken emphasis put upon the form or utterance of truth, rather than upon truth itself; or, to put it differently, of a provincialism and narrowness of vision that made it impossible for the many to understand that truth is many-sided, that men are different temperamentally, that revelation is continuous and progressive, and that religion is not theology. Communities exist in New England where the old view still obtains, where sectarianism is as rampant as ever, where the clergyman is the social autocrat as well as the shepherd of souls. But such towns are becoming fewer and fewer as the years go by, and of towns of the newer type, where the church is recognized as only one of the many agents which God has for ushering in His Kingdom on earth, New England now has quite as many, probably, as are to be found elsewhere,
To those interested in the theological and religious history of English-speaking peoples, certain New England towns have a peculiar fascination and value as environments which have affected character. Northampton, Massachusetts, will ever be a Mecca because of the identification of Jonathan Edwards with the town, Concord, in the same commonwealth, has not only the unique glory that belongs to a town where national history has been made and the best American literature of its class written by Hawthorne and Thoreau, but also it is the town where Emerson's ministerial ancestors lived, where he flowered out and became
that grey-eyed seer
Who in pastoral Concord ways
With Plato and Hafiz walked.
Newport, Rhode Island, with all its present pre-eminence as a place where "Fashion is a potency . . . making it hard to judge between the temporary and the lasting," will ever remain most worthy of resort because it was the birthplace of William Ellery Channing, and, for thirty years, was the home of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Hopkins, both eminent as theologians and as brave pioneer antagonists of human slavery. Dr. Hopkins was the model for the New England pastor described by Harriet Beecher Stowe in The Minister's Wooing, Northfield, Massachusetts, is known to thousands of Christians the world over, who have never seen its rare beauty of river and landscape, because a boy, one Dwight L. Moody, was born and bred there, and has become the greatest evangelist of modern times, Litchfield, Connecticut, is famous as the birthplace of Henry Ward Beecher, and if one wishes flash-light pictures of New England ecclesiastical and social life at the beginning of this century, let one read the autobiographic records of Lyman, Henry Ward, Harriet, and Catherine E. Beecher.
Portland, Maine, is known to thousands throughout the English-speaking world, who are ignorant of every other fact in its long and honorable history, because Francis E. Clark there conceived and began that movement to enlist young people in active Christian service, which is now known as the International Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, with 54,191 local societies, and more than three and one quarter million adherents enrolled, Russia alone, of the nations of the earth, being without a society now. Hartford, Connecticut, with a discernment and gratitude not always displayed by municipalities, has named its beautiful municipal park after Horace Bushnell, for many years its most eminent divine and "first citizen."
Salem, fascinating as it is because of its connection with the witchcraft delusion and the early Puritan theocracy; because of its being for a time the home of Hawthorne, who has preserved its ancient local color and atmosphere in his fiction; and because of its ancient glory as a seaport town, whence departed a fleet of sailing craft that made Salem known throughout the world, in places where Boston and New York were then unknown, nevertheless derives its chief glory from the fact that it was the town where Roger Williams, the Welsh statesman and prophet, found a church willing to sit at his feet. The church's loyalty, however, gave way at last to the resistless pressure of the civil authorities and the zealous ecclesiastical tyrants of the Puritan commonwealth, and it permitted him to depart, to establish in Rhode Island a community based upon the principle of entire liberty of conscience, and majority rule in secular affairs. Massachusetts' loss and the world's gain are thus summed up by Gervinus the German historian:
"The theories of freedom in Church and State, taught in the schools of philosophy in Europe, were here [Rhode Island] brought into practice in the government of a small community. It was prophesied that the democratic attempts to obtain universal suffrage, a general elective franchise, annual parliaments, entire religious freedom, and the Miltonian right of schism would be of short duration. But these institutions have not only maintained themselves here, but have spread over the whole Union. They have superseded the aristocratic commencements of Carolina and Of New York, the High-Church party in Virginia, the theocracy in Massachusetts, and the monarchy throughout America; they have given laws to one quarter of the globe, and, dreaded for their moral influence, they stand in the background of every democratic struggle in Europe."
Boston, with all her glories, has none of which she is more proud, than the fact that within her borders Phillips Brooks was born and labored most of his life. Those who came within his range of influence said of him, as Father Taylor said of Emerson, "He might think this or that, but he was more like Jesus Christ than any one he had ever known."
To mention Roger Williams, Jonathan Edwards, William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Bushnell, Henry Ward Beecher, Phillips Brooks, Francis E, Clark, and Dwight L. Moody, is to name the greatest spiritual forces which New England has known, and towns fed with manna by such prophets have not failed to indicate the influence of personality in transforming environment.
The "town-house," or town-hall, of the New England town or village, in its architecture, is a modern structure, often as simple, unpretentious, and unornamented as the "meeting-house" near which it usually stands on the village green or "town common." It is the arena wherein rich and poor, educated and illiterate, wise and foolish, meet, at least annually, and as much oftener as occasion demands, to decide those questions of Home Rule which are most vital to all concerned, Education, wealth, moral worth, shrewd native sense, oratory, gifts of persuasion, the stirrings of ambition, civic pride, thrift, foresight, all have their due weight in this forum, this "school as well as source of democracy"—as Mr. Bryce aptly phrases it. But when the vote is taken, the blacksmith and the bank president, the master and the servant, the principal of the high school and the loafer around the village bar stand on precisely the same footing, The vote of one is as decisive as that of the other,—no less, no more.
Debate and procedure which have the qualitative character are followed by voting of the quantitative character, and the result represents average intelligence and capacity for self-government, But that result, because it is the product of the expressed will of all, has an authority more enduring and inspiring than any that the autocracies, oligarchies, or constitutional monarchies of Europe have ever displayed or now possess.
Using the town-meeting as a rapier, Samuel Adams "fenced with the British ministry; it was the claymore with which he smote their counsels; it was the harp of a thousand strings that he swept into a burst of passionate defiance, or an electric call to arms, or a proud pæan of exulting triumph, defiance, challenge, and exultation—all lifting the continent to independence. His indomitable will and command of the popular confidence played Boston against London, the provincial town-meeting against the royal Parliament, Faneuil Hall against St. Stephen's."2
This popular government not only enabled the New England Colonies to lead all the others in the War of the Revolution, it also furnished men and ideas for the formidable task of constitution-making after the Revolution was over and independence won, As early as 1773, the rustic Solons of the town of Mendon, Massachusetts, had resolved in town-meeting:
"That all men have an equal right to life, liberty, and property.
"Therefore all just and lawful government must originate in the free consent of the people.
"That a right to liberty and property, which are natural means of self-preservation, is absolutely inalienable, and can never lawfully be given up by ourselves or taken from us by others."
Naturally, a section of the country where such sentiments were held by village Hampdens had a preponderant influence, when the time came to draft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the readiness of the towns to submit to taxation and to give their sons when the call to arms came is a matter of unimpeachable record. In the army of 231,791 soldiers, furnished by the Thirteen Colonies to combat the forces of Great Britain in the Revolution, the four New England Colonies sent 118,251 men, Massachusetts contributing 67,907, Connecticut 31,939, New Hampshire 12,497, and Rhode Island 5,908.
In the War of 1812, New England, as a section, was not very enthusiastic, but her quota of troops was, nevertheless, forthcoming. In the Civil War, 1861-65, her troops were the first to respond to the call of President Lincoln, and, out of 2,778,304 men who enlisted, 363,161 came from New England, Of these, Massachusetts furnished 146,730, Maine 70,107, Connecticut 55,864, New Hampshire 33,937, Vermont 33,288, and Rhode Island 23,236. In fact, surveying the history of New England towns from the time when they contributed their quota of men and money to the aid of the Mother Country in her fight with France to decide who should be supreme on the North American continent, down to the recent contest between the United States and Spain, it can truthfully be said of their democratic form of government that it "is the most powerful and flexible in history, It has proved to be neither violent, cruel, nor impatient, but fixed in purpose, faithful to its own officers, tolerant of vast expense, of enormous losses, of torturing delays, and strongest at the very points where fatal weakness was most suspected." And this, be it remembered, where "the poorest and most ignorant of every race . . . are the equal voters with the richest and most intelligent." This, too, where the newly landed, propertyless immigrant from Italy or Russia, if able to comply with the generous provisions governing naturalization and the exercise of the franchise, has the same potentiality at the polls as the thrifty, well-to-do, heavily taxed citizen whose ancestors, perchance, may have come over with the Pilgrims on The Mayflower.
Considered either in its origin or its development, the New England town-meeting merits the study of all who are interested in the extension of principles of democracy. The English settlers of New England were, as Mr. Bryce says, "largely townsfolk, accustomed to municipal life and to vestry meetings." They brought with them, as an inheritance from their Teutonic ancestors, a habit of self-rule which the peculiar isolation of the colonies and the separate communities in the colonies strengthened; hence a form of government in which the town was the unit evolved inevitably.
The more mixed composition of the population in the Middle Atlantic Colonies, for the same reason, inevitably caused a mixed type of government to be created there, in which the county or shire divided the authority with the town; while in the Southern Colonies the immigrants were of such a character, and the economic conditions so different from those in New England, that a more aristocratic form of government evolved, semi-feudal in its type, and the county, rather than the town, became the important minor political unit within the State, never, however, having a vigorous independent life, the colony and afterward the State becoming the source of authority and the end of government, Long years afterward, in the Civil War, the two types of government clashed, and the type prevailed which Thomas Jefferson praised and wished transferred to Virginia, for, said he:
"Those wards called townships in New England are the vital principle of their governments, and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government and for its preservation."
It is well, however, to note, that Mr. Charles Borgeaud, the eminent Genevan historian, in his work on the Rise of Modern Democracy, disputes the Teutonic origin of the town-meeting, and contends that it must be credited to the democratic principles of the New Testament as interpreted and accepted, first by the Brownists of England, and held later by the Pilgrim Fathers and those of the Puritans who accepted the Independent form of church government, rather than to any principle of communal government first evolved by Teutons. He says:
"At the moment when the colonists of New England quitted the Mother Country, whatever was left of that old self-government which had been exercised by their forefathers was under the influence of the general movement, and was undergoing aristocratic transformation. The vestries, or meetings of the inhabitants of the parish, were being replaced by committees known as select vestries, which were originally elected, and then, before long, recruited by co-optation. Had the American colonists purely and simply imitated in their new country the system which they had seen at work in England, they certainly would not have founded the democratic government of the town-meeting. In order to explain their political activity, we must take into account, and that largely, their religious ideas. And we shall be naturally led to do this if we remember that, in the beginning, each settlement or town was, before all things, a congregation, and that the town-meeting was in most cases the same thing as the assembly of the congregation. In Virginia, where the colonists remained members of the Anglican Church, there was no town-meeting, but only select vestries as in England, and these had certainly lost all family likeness, if they really were related to the Thing and the Tungemot."
In due time, when pioneers from New England found their way to the then virgin lands of Central New York, the valley of the Ohio, and the northern half of the vast valley of the Mississippi, they carried with them the political and religious ideals of New England. Where they were a large Majority of the settlers within a given territory, or where at the time when its organic structure was forming they dominated it, the town was established as the political unit in the territory. Such was the case in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Where New England settlers joined with those from the Middle States, or the border States of Kentucky and Virginia, they often found it necessary to compromise on a system in which the county and the town were peers, as in Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa, But, as experience has proved, the modified township system, as it is found in Illinois and Michigan, is more advantageous than the system of divided authority, and many of the Western States are gradually adopting it, California, Nebraska, and the Dakotas having recently made it either permissible or mandatory.
Nor are signs lacking that in the South, as its white population increases by immigrants from the North, as the patriarchal and pastoral type of civilization gives way to the modern industrial and corporate type, as cities and towns multiply, and local as well as State pride has free chance to develop, there will be an adoption of the modified township system and a gradual abolition of the county system.
Among the changes of the last half-century in New England, one notable one has been the tendency of the larger towns to adopt the city form of government as soon as it was deemed that the increase of population warranted the step and made it necessary, This fact, as well as the marked increase of urban population in New England,3 is counted by some students of her social development as indicative of retrogression, however inevitable. Certain it is, that if the town of Brookline, with its population of 16,164, and its property valuation of $64,169,200,4 and annual appropriations of more than $900,000, can still work the ancient machinery of the town-meeting without the slightest loss either of a pecuniary or a civic sort, other towns, with a smaller population and much smaller valuation of property, cannot reasonably claim that mere physical growth is any warrant for the change from a system so purely democratic to one less so and much more readily adapted to serve the ends of partisan bosses and those who batten at the public crib.
The third of the indispensable and ever- present institutions found in every New England town or village is the public school, open to all and supported by all. Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jew, Caucasian and African, French Canadian and Irish, Italian and Portuguese, English and German, mingle in the school-room and learn the essential likeness of each to the other, their common and peculiar gifts, and their common duties to God and the State. No man in the community is so rich or aristocratic as to escape taxation for support of the school, even though his children may never darken the doors. No man in the community is so humble or so poor as to be debarred from sending his children to the highest as well as to the lowest grades. Unsectarian in the sense that they derive support from taxpayers of all sects and inculcate the dogmas of none, secular in the sense that religion is not a part of the curriculum, they ever have been a bulwark to the cause of religion, partly by reason of the example of the teaching force, who usually are men and women with religious faith as well as mental attainment, and partly because they have developed the rational powers of men, and thus enabled them to discriminate between superstition and truth, Beginning, in the more favored and advanced communities, with kindergarten instruction for young children, and not ceasing until the youth or maiden is prepared to enter the college or university, the State and the town, co-operating together, make it possible for every parent to give to his children, or for every ambitious or friendless boy or girl to secure for himself or herself, at the public expense, a thorough preparatory education. Nor is there any item of his yearly tax bill which the typical New Englander pays with greater alacrity and more certainty of belief as to its equity or economy than his annual contribution for popular education, For it is ingrained in his very being, woven into the texture of his life, to believe, as Garfield said, that "next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained," Moreover, being shrewd as well as a man of high principles and a lover of learning for its own sake, the New Englander is convinced that it pays to be educated, and to have educated neighbors and children, His reasoning takes this form: The more children in the schools, the fewer youths and adults in the jails and poorhouses. The better informed the mill operatives, the larger the output of the mills. The higher the standard of living, the larger the demand for the product of the soil and the loom, and the better the home market. The more intelligent the voter, the less the seductive power of the demagogue and the "political boss." In short, the New England people have always believed, and still believe, what the inscription on the Public Library in Boston declares:
THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION
OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD
OF ORDER AND LIBERTY.
That the policy has been a wise one, is indicated by New England's share in the various struggles for liberty which the country has seen, the stability of all her institutions, her exemption from disorder and industrial disputes which culminate in violence, her inhospitality to "boss rule" in politics, and the thrift and prosperity of her citizens.
Historically speaking, the "public school" is a very ancient New England institution, Boston had one as early as 1635, and, in 1647, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted:
"That to the end that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers, it was ordered in all the Puritan colonies that every township, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty households, shall appoint one to teach all children to write and read; and when any town shall increase to the number Of one hundred families, they shall set up a Grammar School, the master thereof to be able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the University."
Nine years earlier, in 1638, the same body had founded a college (Harvard) at Cambridge, in order, as they said, that "the light of learning might not go out, nor the study of God's word perish," These two acts of the General Court may be reckoned as the germs from which has developed that system of secondary and higher education which has given Massachusetts the place of leader in the history of education in America.
In 1645, Connecticut passed a law similar to the earlier Massachusetts statute of 1642, but not until 1701 was Yale University founded at New Haven. Rhode Island did not have a system of popular education until just as the eighteenth century was closing. New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont accepted the Massachusetts methods and ideals, with some minor variations.
Devout as were the founders of New England, it followed inevitably that they should establish institutions where their children might obtain a distinctly religious training as well as a general education. Thus, for a long period of New England history, the Christian academy, under denominational control, flourished just as it does now in the West, and for much the same reason. As the public-school system has expanded, as town after town has added the high school to the primary and grammar school, as sectarian fences have toppled over or ceased to be restrictive, the academy of the old type has ceased to play the part it once did in New England life. But, in any survey of the history of education in New England, it should not be overlooked. Many excellent institutions of this type still survive to meet the demands of those persons who either distrust the public high school, or else are unable to send their children to one, owing to residence in towns where the school system has not developed to that extent, But, as a rule, the New England boy and girl, no matter what the social station or wealth of his or her parent, still "derives his or her preparation for college or life from the community in which he or she lives." And, as Phillips Brooks said in his address at the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Latin School:
"That is the real heart of the whole matter. . . . It constitutes the greatest claim of the public-school system- It represents the fundamental idea of the town undertaking the education of her children. . . . It educates the thought of law and obedience, the sense of mingled love and fear, which is the true citizen's true emotion to his city. It educates this in the very lessons of the school-room, and makes the person of the State the familiar master of the grateful subject from his boyhood. . . . It is in the dignity and breadth and seriousness which the sense that their town is training them gives to their training, that the advantage of the public- school boys over the boys of the best private schools always consists."
Emigrating westward, the pioneers from New England carried with them the public school, the academy, and the college. Connecticut's settlers in the Western Reserve, Ohio, took with them conceptions of duty in this respect, which profoundly affected the future history of the commonwealth. Ohio has come to be, in this later day, what Virginia was in the early history of the country—"The Mother of Presidents"—and has more colleges within its borders than any State in the Union. It was a Massachusetts soldier, Gen. Rufus Putnam of Rutland, a Congregational clergyman, Rev. Manasseh Cutler of Hamilton, Massachusetts, and an Ipswich, Massachusetts, lawyer, Nathan Dane, who founded Marietta, Ohio, and induced Congress to put into the epoch-marking Ordinance of 1787 governing the Northwest Territory, this remarkable declaration and article:
"Religion, and morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and means of education shall forever be encouraged."
As early as 1797, Muskingum Academy was founded in the territory conceded, and in due time came Marietta, Oberlin, Wabash, Illinois, Knox, Beloit, Olivet, and Ripon Colleges, all Christian institutions within the territory originally governed by the Ordinance of 1787.
Precisely similar has been the record of New England emigrants beyond the Mississippi. Wherever they have settled and shaped the civic ideals, whether in the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, or in California, there they have laid the foundations of a free public-school system, and of academies and colleges controlled by Christian educators and trustees, Nor do they cease to believe in the academy and the college now that the competition of the State university in the States of the interior and the West is so intense, and the reliance of the treasuries of these Western Christian institutions upon the gifts of their friends in New England increases rather than abates.
Impressed with the need, in all sections of the country, of a well-instructed and intelligent electorate, and convinced that the South was too poor to provide for itself the schools that its unfortunate illiterate whites and blacks needed, New Englanders early began to contribute to the support of academies and colleges in the South, Not always welcomed by the ruling class, the pioneers in this work persevered, and many of them have lived long enough to receive the thanks of those who at first despised and scorned them, Millions of dollars have gone from New England for the founding and support of such institutions as Berea College, Kentucky; Atlanta University, Georgia; Hampton Institute, Virginia; Fisk University, Tennessee; and Tuskeegee Institute, Alabama, Three New Englanders, George Peabody of Danvers, Mass., John F. Slater of Norwich, Conn., and Daniel Hand of Guilford, Conn., have given between them $5,100,000 in bequests or donations for the establishment or assistance of schools, colleges, and training schools for teachers in the South. The Peabody Education Fund, from 1868 to 1897, distributed in the South, from its income alone, a sum amounting to $2,478,527.
Nor is New England's influence, educationally speaking, limited to the United States, The educational system of Honolulu is based on New England models. Robert College, near Constantinople, has spread the principles of Christian democracy in Church and State, as they are held by New Englanders, throughout Bulgaria and the Balkan states, and given ideals to the Young Turkey party in the land where the Sultan is dominant. The Huguenot Seminary in South Africa was distinctly modelled after Mt. Holyoke Seminary, and its first teaching staff was made up of New England women educated at Mt, Holyoke. Wherever American Protestant missionaries have gone and established schools and colleges in Asia, Africa, or Europe, almost invariably the master spirits, the men and women who have given character to, and established the ideals of, the institutions, have been graduates of the New England colleges and academies, even if not New-England-born.
Subtract from the history of education in the United States, during the latter half of the century just closing, the influence of four men, Horace Mann, Henry Barnard, Charles William Eliot, and William Torrey Harris, and you take from it the best that it stands for to-day. All of these men were born in New England. All were reformers. All showed great administrative ability. All lived to see their radical views find general acceptance, Horace Mann did his greatest work in remodelling the public-school system of Massachusetts. Barnard did a similar work in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, but his greatest service to the cause of education was his masterly editing of the American Journal of Education, from 1855 to 1881. Eliot has transformed the curriculum of Harvard, the oldest university of the North, has resolutely contended for the largest measure of election by the student in his selection of studies, his personal conduct, and his personal attitude toward God, and he has made "Veritas" in very truth the appropriate motto of the leading American institution of learning, Harris, as an interpreter of the philosophy of education, both in his many writings and more numerous addresses, has lifted the popular conception of the profession of teaching to a loftier and more rational plane, while his control of the United States Bureau of Education since 1889 has given it a standing abroad, and a measure of utility at home, which it is gratifying to contemplate.
Few towns in New England possess more charm, whether of nature or society, than the towns in which her long-established institutions of learning have taken root, flourished, and dominated the life of the community. New Haven, Cambridge, and Providence are all cities now with a heterogeneous population and large manufacturing interests, and they each contain thousands of inhabitants to whom Harvard, Yale, and Brown are of as little practical benefit or concern as if they were situated in remote Hawaii or Porto Rico. Nevertheless, the chief glory of each of these large towns is its institution of learning, and to each there come added beauty of life and elevation of tone because of the presence within its borders of so many thirsty and hungry students and highly educated and apt instructors. It would be idle, however, to claim, for instance, that Cambridge to-day is quite as unique and charming in its simplicity and purity of life, or quite as classic in its atmosphere, as it was in the days when the town was a village, when the university was a college, and when thought and manners were as ideal as James Russell Lowell in his essay, Cambridge Thirty Years Ago, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson in his latest book, Cheerful Yesterdays, picture them.
To study the American college town at its best, unsullied by the grime of industrialism and the temptations and conventionalities of city life, one must go to hill-towns like Amherst and Williamstown, Massachusetts, or Hanover, New Hampshire. But even there, standards of living and conduct among students and instructors have been changed and influenced by the habits and ideals of the universities and the cities. Hence, to see the American college town in all its pristine simplicity and beauty, one now has to go to the new New England, and visit such institutions as Oberlin, Beloit, Knox, Iowa, and Colorado colleges, concerning which, and others of their type, Mr. Bryce writes:
"They get hold of a multitude of poor men who might never resort to a distant place for education. They set learning in a visible form, plain indeed and humble, but dignified even in her humility, before the eyes of a rustic people, in whom the love of knowledge, naturally strong, might never break from the bud into the flower, but for the care of some zealous gardener. They give the chance of rising in some intellectual walk of life to many a strong and earnest nature who might otherwise have remained an artisan or storekeeper, and perhaps failed in those avocations." 5
New England has a railroad mileage greater in proportion to its population and area than any section of the United States. Indeed, it is greater than that of any European country. In 1895, there were 11.77 miles of railroad for each one hundred square miles of territory, and 14.11 miles for each ten thousand inhabitants, the proportion in Massachusetts rising to 26,35 miles for each one hundred square miles. The same year, the number of employés engaged in railway traffic in New England was 60,593. On January 1, 1840, New England had only 426 miles of railway. January 1, I895, it had 7,398 miles of road, which reported gross earnings of $82,845,401, and 116,069,178 passengers transported during the previous year.
The significance of these facts is apparent to the casual traveller through New England as well as to the economist. Nerves of steel and iron have bound urban and rural populations together, made the cities and towns accessible to the inland trader, farmer, and producer, and the country districts accessible to the wares of the merchant and manufacturer, and to the lover of nature. Suburban residence for the urban toiler has been made possible and cheap, while New England, as a whole, has been transformed from an agricultural and seafaring section to one with great and most varied manufacturing interests. Boston has come to be next to the largest centre for exports in the country, and the commercial and industrial as well as the intellectual capital of New England.
From the standpoint of æsthetics, the railroad station in the average New England town is a monstrosity, although in all fairness it should be said that within a decade there has been a notable improvement in this respect. But from the standpoint of economics and social science, the railway station is subordinate only to the church and the school in its service to society; and the degree of civilization in any community may be accurately computed by the volume and variety of the traffic done with its station agents. If one is desirous of studying the New England town, let him frequent the platforms of the railroad station and the freight-house, ascertain how large a proportion of its inhabitants leave town daily to do business in the adjacent city, how many travel even farther in pursuit of pleasure or on business, how many depart on outings that imply thrift and a desire for recreation and rest. Let him study the bulk of the raw material as it comes from the wool- markets of Europe and America, from the cotton fields of the South, and from the mines of Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, and then inspect it as it goes forth again, converted into manifold forms of useful tools, machinery, fabrics, etc., and he will not lack for data respecting the status of the community. If he finds that pianos, organs, books, pictures, the latest devices of sanitary science, bicycles, etc., are arriving, he may justly infer that the inhabitants are in touch with the outer world and eager to take advantage of the latest discoveries of men of science. Nor is it imprudent to assert that such a study made in the average New England town will indicate economic wants, and their satisfaction, such as no communities elsewhere can display.
Compared with other sections of the country, New England has railroads which are better supervised by the States, more honestly constructed, capitalized and administered, and more responsive to public needs. Concentration of power and responsibility in the hands of the few goes on apace in New England, as well as elsewhere, so that now there are only four railway corporations of much importance in New England. But, through such governmental agents as the Massachusetts Board of Railroad Commissioners (organized in 1869, and the model for similar bodies elsewhere in the nation), the people still retain the whip-hand, still protect the rights of individuals, communities, and investors, and bring about those reductions in fare and freight charges, and those improvements in service, which public welfare and safety demand.
No attempt—however brief or superficial—to describe the life of the New England town of the last decade of the nineteenth century, especially in the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, could justifiably fail to note the transformation—economic, physical, and social—which the bicycle and trolley electric railroad have wrought in the life of the towns of those States.
New England capitalists and New England inventors were the first to put on the market safety bicycles that were well constructed, adapted for daily use or pleasure, and reasonably cheap, and New England still retains the lead in the domestic and export trade in bicycles. Naturally, then, New England people were the first to purchase the product of their own factories. Space does not suffice to indicate here how general now is the use of the bicycle even in the remotest hamlets, and how it has changed modes of living. Farmers' boys and girls among the lakes and hills of Maine and Vermont, fishermen's children on the sand-dunes of Cape Cod, run their errands, visit their neighbors, and get their daily sport with the bicycle. Artisans and professional men in all the towns and cities go to and from their shops, offices, and homes on steeds that require no fodder, and while doing it gain physical exercise and mental exhilaration that transportation in the old ways never furnished. Horses still are in demand for sport and draught work, and the few who love horses continue to breed and own them. But for the multitude a far cheaper and more tractable kind of steed has come, one which rivals the locomotive as well as the horse and forces steam-railway managers to face serious problems, mechanical and fiscal.
As to the electric street railway, perhaps a few facts relative to Massachusetts may indicate a state of affairs that to some extent is typical now of the section, and will become more so as population in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont drifts townward.
From 1860 to 1889, the number of street-railway companies in Massachusetts increased only from twenty to forty-six, and the mileage from eighty-eight to 574, the motor force of course being horse-power. From 1889 to 1897, the number of companies increased from forty-six to ninety-three, and the mileage from 547 to 1413, the motor power being almost exclusively electric. During the same period, the number of passengers carried on the ten main lines increased from 148,189,403 in 1889, to 308,684,224 in 1897. The total capital invested in these street railways now amounts to $63,112,800, and, in 1897, earned 7.78 per cent. on the average.
So much for statistics which are impressive in themselves. But if one would appreciate the magnitude of this traffic, and the radical transformation which the new power and improved service have wrought in the life of the people who patronize these railroads, he must do more than compare statistics. He must note the result of making the residence in the suburb and the workshop in the city accessible to a degree that the steam railway cannot expect to duplicate, of giving city dwellers opportunities to journey seaward and hillward at a trifling expense, of providing residents of the villages with inexpensive transportation to the towns and residents of the towns with transportation to the cities, of cultivating the knowledge of and love for open-air life and nature among city dwellers and of enlarging the social horizon and area of observation of the villager, of giving a poor man a vehicle that transports him with a speed and a sense of pleasure that vies with that of the high-priced trotter of the wealthy horseman, of giving to society a centripetal force that tends to take city workers countryward at a time when other social forces, centrifugal in their tendency, are drawing him cityward.
Naught would occasion more bewilderment to the ancient residents of Marblehead, Hingham, or Plymouth, could they return to their former places of abode, than the "Broomstick Trains" which Oliver Wendell Holmes's fancy pictured thus:
"On every stick there 's a witch astride,—
The string you see to her leg is tied.
She will do a mischief if she can,
But the string is held by a careful man,
And whenever the evil-minded witch
Would cut some caper, he gives a twitch.
As for the hag, you can't see her,
But hark! you can hear her black cat's purr,
And now and then, as a car goes by,
You may catch a gleam from her wicked eye."
These trains whirl through the crooked streets with a mysterious, awe-compelling power, that would suggest witchery were it not for the clang of their alarm bells, and the knowledge that fares must be paid. They disturb the quiet and solemnity of many an ancient village, and have brought knowledge of evil as well as of good to many a youth, What railways and steamship lines have done in bringing peoples of all climes and continents nearer together, and thus at once widened men's area of knowledge and sympathy, and contracted the physical area of the earth, this the electrically propelled motor is doing on a smaller scale for the people of the towns of the ancient commonwealths of New England.
In ante-bellum days, New England and the South were, perhaps, most unlike in their attitude toward manufacturing, and the difference was one that meant far more than a mere incident of difference of climate or a difference of opinion as to sectional or federal fiscal policy. The art of manufacturing, as New Englanders had practised it for generations before what is now known as the "factory system" developed, had been based on a universal recognition of the nobility of labor, the necessity for personal initiative, and the duty of thrift, Toil was considered honorable for men and women alike. Every hillside stream was set at work turning the wheels of countless mills. Yankee ingenuity was given free play in the invention of appliances, and Yankee initiative saw to it that after the raw material was converted into the finished product, markets were found in the newer settlements of the Interior and West, or in Europe and Asia. Many a farmer was a manufacturer as well. Home industries flourished, and no month in the year was too inclement for toil and its reward.
With the application of steam power to the transportation of freight and passengers, with the invention of the spinning-jenny and the perfecting of the cotton loom and the development of the "factory system" of specialized and divided labor, New England, quick to perceive wherein her future prosperity lay, at once leaped forward to seize the opportunity, and the relative superiority thus early gained she has not lost, even though other sections more favorably situated as to accessible supplies of fuel and raw materials have, in the meantime, awakened and developed.
Whether judged by the legislation governing their operation, their structural adaptability to the work to be done, their equipment of machinery, the variety and quality of their product, or the intelligence and earning capacity of their operatives, the New England factories can safely challenge comparison with those of any in the world, and the typical factory towns of New England, whether along her largest rivers, such as Lowell and Hartford, or at tide-water, as Fall River and Bridgeport, or nestled among the hills, as North Adams or St. Johnsbury, are the frequent subject of study by the deputed agents of European governments or manufacturers, anxious to ascertain what it is that makes the American manufacturer so dangerous a competitor in the markets of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Few more interesting movements in the history of man's upward struggle have been chronicled than the successive waves of immigration which have swept into the factories of towns like Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire. First came from the hill towns and farms the daughters of the original English, Irish, and Scotch settlers—women like Lucy Larcom,—then the Irish, specially imported from Ireland, and then the French from Canada. The Irish came when the original stock became, in its own estimation, too select for daily toil in the factory. The French came at an opportune time for the employers, when the Irish were also stirred by loftier ambitions. And it is already apparent that, whereas the French came, at first, only to win money to take back to Canada, now they are settling down to become citizens as well as residents, aspiring to higher and other realms of activity—in short, getting ready to give way in turn to some other nationality. Of course, nothing just stated should be interpreted to imply that the ideals of New England respecting the honorable nature of toil have changed, or that her factory operatives have ceased to be men of all races including the English, She has, however, witnessed or rather been the scene of a remarkable process of assimilation and transformation of races such as none of the manufacturing towns of England have seen.
Thus far, consideration has been given to those factors in the life of the community which it may truthfully be said are to be found in a large majority of the towns and villages of New England. It would be necessary, for a complete study of the New England town at its best, to include other factors, such as the savings-bank, the local lodges of the fraternal, secret orders, the co-operative bank—known in the Middle States as the building loan association,—the daily or weekly local newspaper, and the gossip and wisdom retailed by the habitués of the "village store," which, in many of the smaller towns, serves as the clearing-house of ideas, local and national. Nor could any thorough study of the New England town as an institution fail to note at least the beneficent effect which the exclusion of shops where intoxicating liquors are retailed has had upon all of the States, thanks to that measure of prohibition which has been made possible through statutory or legislative enactment. So that, in the towns of the agricultural districts of New England, the legalized dram-shop is unknown, as are all the attendant moral and economic evils that follow in its train when the traffic is tolerated. Nor is the possibility of excluding the saloon from larger towns—manufacturing and residential—to be gainsaid in view of the record established by such cities as Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Brookline, and Newton, Massachusetts. In fact, Cambridge, with its more than eighty thousand inhabitants, for nearly twelve years now has enforced local prohibition in a way to make its method of doing so a model for the country; the secret of the method by which it secures an annual "No-license vote" and a non-partisan administration of all city affairs being, in short, the union of temperance men of all degrees of abstinence, Jews and Christians of all sects, and citizens of all national parties on the simple platform—"No saloons, and no tests for local officials other than fitness, and soundness on questions of local policy."
But there is one factor in the life of very many of the New England towns to-day that cannot be passed by without some allusion. It is the town or city library. In many instances the gift of some private donor, who was either born in the town, and making a home and fortune elsewhere desired to testify that he was not unmindful of ancestral environment and of youthful privileges, or else accumulated a fortune in the town and desired both to perpetuate his memory and to render a public service, the library building usually stands as a token of that marked interest in public education and public welfare which Americans of wealth reveal by gifts, generous to a degree unknown elsewhere in Christendom, competent European judges being witnesses. Appleton's Annual Encyclopedia records a total of $27,000,000 given to religious, educational, and philanthropic institutions in the United States, in sums of $5000 or more, by individuals, as donations or bequests during the year 1896. In this list are recorded gifts, amounting to $195,000, to establish or to endow town libraries in New England.
Sometimes the major portion of the contents of the library building is also the gift of the generous donor of the edifice, but, usually, the town assumes responsibility for the equipment and maintenance of the library, deriving the necessary income from appropriations voted by the citizens in town-meetings or by aldermen and councilmen, members of the local legislature, and assessed and collected pro rata according to the valuation of property, just as all other town or city taxes are collected. But, whether the gift of some private individual or the creation and property of the town, the fact remains that the handsomest public buildings in New England to-day are the public-library buildings, and in no department of civic life are the New England States and towns so far in advance of those of other sections of the country as in their generous annual appropriations for the maintenance of this form of individual and civic betterment, New Hampshire is to be credited with the first law permitting towns to establish and to maintain libraries by general taxation, This she did in 1849. Massachusetts followed in 1854, Vermont in 1865, Connecticut in 1881. Boston, however, deserves credit for being the pioneer in public taxation for a municipal library, and to the Hon. Josiah Quincy, grandfather of its present mayor, who, in 1847, proposed to the City Council that they request the Legislature for authority to lay a tax to establish a free library, belongs the honor of having founded in America a form of municipal and town activity, than which, as Stanley Jevons says, in his book Methods of Social Reform, "there is probably no mode of expending public money which gives a more extraordinary and immediate return in utility and enjoyment."
Already, library administrators and farsighted educators and publicists foresee a time when it will be as compulsory for towns to establish and support free public libraries as it now is compulsory for them to establish and support free public schools. Massachusetts, perhaps, approaches nearer that ideal now than any other State, only ten of its 353 cities and towns being without public libraries.
Fortunately for the sociologist, the historian, the economist, and the lover of literature, the inhabitants of New England have not failed to chronicle in various forms and ways the deeds and thoughts of their contemporaries. Thus there is a large class of historic documents of which Bradford's history of Plimoth Plantation is the magnum opus. Then there are innumerable town histories,—of which the four-volume history of Hingham, Massachusetts, is a model,—family genealogies, sermons, diaries, volumes of correspondence, such as that which passed between John Adams and his wife, memorial addresses, such as Emerson and G, W, Curtis delivered at Concord, and Webster and Robert C. Winthrop at Plymouth, which inform and often inspire all who patiently explore their contents. Last, but not least, there are the products of New England's representative authors, who in prose or poetry have recorded indelibly the higher life of their own or of passing generations. In short, a literature- loving people has given birth to literature, and the New England town of the past can never totally fade out of the memory of future generations so long as men and women are left to read the poetry of Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes, and Aldrich, Lowell's Biglow Papers, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Oldtown Folks and A Minister's Wooing, the short stories of Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary E. Wilkins, Rose Terry Cooke, Alice Brown, Maria L. Pool, and Jane G. Austin, the prose romances of Hawthorne and F. J. Stimson, and the histories of Palfrey, Bancroft, Parkman, and Fiske.
That New Englanders in the past have been and even now are provincial, is the indictment of Europeans and of some Americans. That they have developed reason at the expense of imagination, utility at the expense of beauty, is also affirmed. Their Puritan ancestors are the butt of the ridicule of the caricaturist, of ultra-Liberal preachers and devotees of materialistic science, and of those who have never read history, European or American. No less an authority than Matthew Arnold has described the life of New England as "uninteresting." To all such critics, the New Englander can and will reply with dignity and force when proper occasion offers, but this is not the place even to summarize his argument. Suffice it to say that the children of New England are ever returning to her. They sojourn for a time in Europe, the valley of the Mississippi, in Southern California, and in Hawaii. They find more salubrious climes, more beautiful works of ecclesiastical and municipal art, better municipal government, and sometimes greater opportunities for investment of capital and ability and choicer circles of society than those which exist in the towns in which they were born or reared. But in due time the yearning for the hills, valleys and seacoast of rocky and rigorous New England, for the established institutions, the generally diffused intelligence, the equality of opportunity, the sane standards of worth, and the inspiring historical traditions of the early home becomes too strong to be resisted longer, and back to the homestead they come—some on annual visits, some as often as the exchequer permits, some never to depart, New England has thousands of citizens to-day who, having either made, or failed to make, their fortunes in the West, have returned to New England to dwell. Once a New Englander, always a New Englander, in spirit if not in residence. Travel abroad, or residence elsewhere, may modify the austerity, broaden the sympathy, polish the manners, and stimulate the imagination of the New Englander, but it never radically alters his views on the great issues of life and death, or makes him less of a democrat or less of a devotee of Wisdom.__________________
1 De Tocqueville's Democracy in America, chapter v. Mr. F. J. Lippitt, who assisted M. de Tocqueville in the preparation of this work, says that once when they "had been talking about town-meetings, de Tocqueville exclaimed with a kindling eye (usually quite expressionless), 'Mais, c'est la commune!'"—Cf. The Century Magazine, September, 1898, p. 707.
2 Geo. Wm. Curtis, Orations and Addresses, vol. iii.
3 In 1810, less than 15 per cent. of the population of Rhode Island was found in towns of 8000 or more inhabitants; in 1890, nearly 80 per cent. In Massachusetts, in 1790, five per cent. were urban dwellers; in 1890, 70 per cent. In Connecticut, in 1830, 3 per cent. lived in cities; in 1890, more than 50 per cent. In 1840, 3 per cent. in New Hampshire lived in cities; in 1890, more than 25 per cent. In 1820, in Maine, 4 per cent. lived in cities; in 1890, 20 per cent.
4 Cf. Town Records of Brookline, 1897-98.
5 Chapter cii., Bryce's American Commonwealth. For an interesting and significant account of the impression made by one of the western Christian colleges upon a friendly and thoroughly trained French observer, see the translation of an article by Th. Bentzon (Madame Blanc) in the Revue des Deux Mondes, printed in McClure's Magazine, May, 1895.