Daily Archives: August 8, 2006

Item of the Day: Gazette of the United States (1791)

Full Title: Gazette of the United States. Published Wednesdays and Saturdays by John Fenno. Philadelphia. No. 52, of Vol. III. Whole No. 240. Wednesday August 17, 1791.

[John Fenno (1751-1798) founded the Federalist-spirited Gazette of the United States in New York City on April 11, 1789. Fenno later moved the paper to Philadelphia when it became the federal capital. During Washington’s administration, the Gazette became the “official” government newspaper, publishing the government’s official documents and announcements. It would play a critical role in supplying a venue for political writings of Federalists such as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. Along with its rival (and pro-French) publications The National Gazette, edited by Philip Freneau, and Aurora, edited by Benjamin Franklin Bach, the Gazette of the United States is often considered to be a significant contributor to the establishment of political parties in America in the 1790s. John Fenno died of yellow fever in 1798.]


One of the first laws of Massachusetts provided, “That the Selectmen shall have a vigilant eye over parents, that they shall duly endeavor, by themselves, or others, to instruct their children in leaning; and that if, after warning given by the Selectman, any parent shall be negligent, he shall be fined.” Some think this law to have been rather arbitrary, but the reason the law-makers themselves assign will be satisfactory. They say, “lest the children should grow barbarous, rude and stubborn, and so prove pests, instead of blessings to their country.”

The learned and patriotic Dr. Price, in a late discourse, says, “Our first concern as lovers of our country, must be to enlighten it. Why are the nations of the world so patient under despotism? Is it not because they are kept in darkness and want of knowledge? –enlighten them, and you will elevate them.”Should the seminaries of learning be neglected by the Commonwealth, there can be no way to support them, but by enhancing the price of education. The rich men will then give their children an education, while the people in the middle walk of life, and the poor, will be denied the privilege of learning. The people will then be obliged to hold learning in contempt, to exclude it from their public assemblies; or, the powers of government, and the offices will be held by the rich in exclusion of the others. The first alternative leads to a state of barbarism, the other leads to aristocracy and despotism.

There is in men a natural pride, and a natural envy. The wealthy are apt to hold the poor in contempt, and the poor are apt to envy the opulence of the great. These tempers, however reprehensive they are, have their use in society; the first leads the wealthy to support government, the latter induces a spirit of equality, which prevents that government from rising to a state of despotism.

The habits and education of the rich lead to aristocracy, and if they can have a monopoly of the learning of the country, there will be an end of democracy; the equality which is now the glory of our country, will never more be seen, and the calamity of America will blast the hopes of the patriotic part of the European world.

Parents are led by their fondness for their posterity, to try to give them an education: but they have but little interest in the business in comparison with what society has—Parents are soon removed from their tender connection with their children, but society remains forever, and must be happy or miserable, in proportion as knowledge and information are possessed by it.

Reasons for establishing public Schools, reported by the School Committee of the Town of Providence, August 1, 1789.

“1st. Useful knowledge generally diffused among the people, is the surest means of securing the rights of man, of promoting the public prosperity, and perpetuating the liberties of a country.

“2d. As civil community is a kind of joint tenancy, in respect to the gifts and abilities of individual members thereof, it seems not improper, that the disbursements necessary to quality those individuals for usefulness, should be made from common funds.

“3d. Our lives and properties, in a free state, are so much in the power of our fellow-citizens, and the reciprocal advantages of daily intercourse are so much dependant on the information and integrity of our neighbours, that no wise man can feel himself indifferent to the progress of useful learning, civilization, and the preservation of morals, in the community where he resides.

“4th. The most reasonable object of getting wealth after our own wants are supplied, is to benefit those who need it; and it may with great propriety be demanded, in what way can those whose wealth is redundant, benefit their neighbours more certainly and permanently, than by furnishing to their children the means of qualifying them to become good and useful citizens, and of acquiring an honest livelihood?

“5th. In Schools established by public authority, and whose teachers are paid by the public, there will be reason to hope for a more faithful and impartial discharge of the duties of instruction, as well as of dicipline [sic] among the scholars, than can be expected when the masters are dependant on individuals for their support.


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Filed under 1790's, Journal, Legal, Posted by Caroline Fuchs