BLTC Press Titles

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Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire

by Joseph Dow


HITHERTO none but freemen had been permitted to hold any important office either in the government or the town, and none . could become freemen except church members. The right of suffrage, or of voting in the election ofpublic officers, had been equally restricted. Hence there were in the cofony many persons of distinguished ability and undoubted integrity, men, too, possessed of property, and paying taxes for the support of government, who were allowed no voice in the management of public affairs. .lint now this rule was somewhat relaxed. The General Court, in consideration of "the useful parts and abilities" of such, and of the advantages to the commonwealth that might be derived from their services, passed an act, May 26, 1647, declaring that it should thenceforth be lawful for the freemen within any of the towns in the colony, to make choice of such persons to serve as jurymen, and in some other offices, provided that they had taken, or should take, the oath of fidelity. But the law still required that a majority of every board of selectmen should be freemen; otherwise, no act done by them would be valid. Those, not freemen, who might thus be voted for, were also by this act of the court themselves permitted to vote for public officers, and, under some circumstances, to act with the freemen, in ordering schools, herding cattle, laying out highways and distributing lands, any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding. But in order to enjoy these privileges, the man who was not a freeman must have attained the age of twenty-four years, and if convicted In court, of any evil carriage against the government, or commonwealth,or church, he would immediately be deprived of them, and could afterwards, in no way, recover them, "until the court, where he was convicted or sentenced, should restore him to his former liberty."


Another subject of great importance was agitated in the General Court at the fall session of the same year, and resulted in the enactment of a law highly honorable to the members, and worthy of being read and studied, and pondered and admired by succeeding generations. This was a law making provision for the education of the young, by the establishment of A School in every town in the commonwealth containing fifty families, or mqre. Although the interests of education had not previously been neglected, and Harvard college had been established more than ten years before, and was already doing much for those interests, still the enactment of this law may be regarded as the beginning of a series of measures for the education of the whole people; in a word, as the germ of the common-school system, to which New England generally is so deeply indebted.

The considerations that led to the enactment of this law are briefly set forth in the preamble to the act, and the language used is so unique, and at the same time, so characteristic of the people of Massachusetts in that age, and the law itself is one so worthy of being known, that no apology is deemed necessary for inserting both the law and the preamble, without abridgment or alteration:

"It being one chelfe prlect [project] of y' oulddcluder, Satan,to keepemen from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as In form' times by keeping ym in uu unknowne tongue, so in these lattr times by p'swadlng from y* use of tongues, y' so at least y* true scuce & meaning of y* orlgiuall might be clouded by false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers;—y' learning may not be buried in y* grave of or fathTM in y* church & coiilonwcalth, the Lord assisting or endeavTM.—It Is therefore ordrd y' cvry towneshlp In this lurlsdiction, aft' y° Lord hath increased ym to y* number of 50 household", shall then forthw,b appoint one w"'in their towne to teach all such children as shall resort to him, to write & reade,—whose wages shall be paid elthr by y° parents or mast" of such children, or by y* Inhabitants in generall by way of supply, as y* major prt of those y' ord' y* prudential [affairs] of v* towne shall appoint; p'vlded those that send their children be not oppressed by paying much more y" they can have ym taught for in othr towucs; and it is furth' ordered y' where any towne shall increase to y* numb' of 100 families or houschouhlTM, they shall set up a grailicr schooic, y° mc thereof being able to instruct youth so farr as they may be flted for y university, p'vided y' If any towne neglect y* p'formance hereof above one yeare, y' every such towne shall pay 5£ to y* next schoole till they shall prforme this order."

On another occasion, the General Court having premised that "the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any commonwealth," and that "many parents and masters are too indulgent and negligent of their duty" towards their children, enacted such a law as, in their opinion, the case demanded. It wasmnde the duty of the selectmen in their several precincts and quarters, to have a vigilant eye over their brethren and neighbors, to see, in the first place, that none of them should suffer so much barbarism in any of their families, as not to endeavor to teach by themselves or others, their children and apprentices learning enough to enable them perfectly to read the English tongue, and to give them a knowledge of the capital laws, under penalty of twenty shillings for each and every neglect.

What provision was made for the education of the children in this town, during the first ten years of its history, is not known. To suppose that no means were employed for their instruction, would be derogatory to the character of a people, who, from the very settlement of the town, had shown a willingness to make sacrifices in order to maintain among themselves the institutions of religion. While the religions interests of the community had been so well cared for, it is not probable that the intellectual culture of the children had been wholly neglected. We know that Harvard college had taken a deep hold upon the affections of all the people, who cheerfully endured many privations, that they might contribute to its support and enhance its usefulness. The inhabitants of Hampton were not wanting in their attachment to the college; and when called upon for aid, they contributed cheerfully, if they could not bountifully, to its necessities.

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