The History of New York State
Book 12, Chapter 14, Part 4

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


Examinations.--New York has made much more of examinations than has any other State in the Union. She has guarded the entrance to professions as no other State has attempted to do. there had been wide-spread criticism of New York's system of examinations, largely based on certain misconceptions.

In the early history of the New York system of schools the examination of teachers for the purpose of deterring their fitness to teach was largely a farce. This is still true in some States. When this duty is performed by local officers, there will be as many standard as the are examiners. In addition to this, there is always the danger of favoritism. It was not until the administration of Dr. Draper as superintendent of public instruction that any uniformity in the matter of examining candidates for teaching was brought about. Under his administration a bill passed the Legislature providing for uniform examination throughout the State. This act was vetoed by Governor Hill. Dr. Draper then appealed to the school commissioners of the State to voluntarily adopt a uniform system. Nearly all of them responded favorably, and the few who did not soon thought better of it.

In the early days the State superintendent of public instruction issued State certificates on the recommendation of a school commissioner or other person in whose judgment he had confidence, but this system also was abandoned and such certificates began to be issued only as a result of written examinations, passed upon by a boar do examiners. The State plan of certifying teachers was rather complicated, but the rule was made that no one was certified except as the result of passing some examination.

At an early date what was known as the literature fund was distributed among the secondary schools of the State on the basis of attendance of academic pupils. Each principal of a school determined who were the academic students in his school. Here again there were as many standards as there were secondary schools. The evils growing out of the conditions were so apparent that the regents issued question papers in arithmetic, grammar, geography, and spelling, and the students who passed these subjects were counted as academic students. But the principals determined who had passed and here again were different standards. The examination were not held at the same time in all the schools and there was no certainty that pupils might not some time see the question papers before having to take the examinations. Then in many cases the money received from the literature fund, which was a considerable amount, often went to the principal, as most of the secondary schools at that time were private schools, and the temptation to be lenient in the marking was greater than some were able to resist.

These facts became so apparent that the regents provided that the examinations in a given subject should beheld in all schools at the same hour, and that the question papers should not be opened till the hour of examination. All answer papers were to be sent to Albany for examination. The regents' examinations have been so carefully worked out and chance for error or dishonesty so guarded against that many officials both within and without the State accept the pass-cards earned in these examinations in lieu of an entrance examination conducted at the college. Not only this, but laws have been enacted providing that students must have earned pass-cards in given subjects before they can be admitted to professional schools. No other State has guarded the entrance to the professional schools as New York.

Following the close of the Revolution, New York bestirred herself in regard to educational matters with fairly good results. Colleges and academies were chartered as early as 1784. Union free schools, really high schools, were established as early as 1853. Nearly 200 academies were chartered and did most excellent work. Most of these were discontinued in time and public high schools tool their place. Children living in a district in which there was no high school had their tuition paid by the State to enable them to attend the nearest high school when they were prepared to take up high schoolwork.

There was never a State University in New York or a serious thought of one, but in its own way the State settled the question of higher education. When Cornell University was founded and was granted the allotment to it by the Federal Government from the sale of public lands, it was provided that there should be a given number of free scholarships, these being awarded as the result of a competitive examination. This opened the way to only a small number. Later the State provided for 3,000 State scholarships; each year 750 were to be awarded, five for each assembly district. These were determined by partially competitive examinations during and at the close of the high school course, and were awarded to the five students who had the highest average. The students who earned these scholarships might enter any approved college in the State and have $100 each year towards their tuition paid by the State.

New York also, it is to be noted, took up at an early date the question of compulsory education and has kept at it persistently, strengthening the law year by year, increasing the attendance and lessening illiteracy. New York provided for the blind, the deaf, the feeble-minded, and the other unfortunate classes. It undertook to aid in the matter of visual instruction through the lending of pictures, lantern slides and in other ways. Much had been done in the way of aiding weaker districts financially, and plans have been worked out successfully for the benefit of pupils in the rural district of the State, so as to give them as good a chance for an education as can be had in the urban centres.

When commissioners Draper died, the work which he had so well planned for was continued. Andrew S. Draper was not a genius possessing a great originality, but he was a rare education administrator. In that he had been equalled by few in the United States. he was not opinionated, as small minds often are, and he had the wisdom of being willing and even eager, to listen to the opinions of others, and where they struck him as being sound of acting on them. His mind was open to suggestions from any source and he was ready to act upon such suggestions as seemed to him to promise success.

Having once made up his mind that a given thing should be done, the matter was settled permanently in his and rebuffs and temporary failures did not dishearten him; yet, he had, as great administrators are apt to have, the ability to bid his time and seize the favorable moment for action when it arrived. Because of his readiness to accept the suggestions of others and act upon them, it cannot be very clearly ascertained to what extent the work of his administration originated in his own mind. But we do know that whoever they may have originated with, they became his by adoption before he took action.

Through his work largely the schools were removed from the influence of partisan politics; uniform examinations for teachers were established'; great advances were made in the professional training of teachers; that the schools were State and not local institutions came to be realized; secondary education was greatly strengthened' a harmonization of contending factions was effected in the interest of education in the State; provision was made for free State college scholarships; the erection of a magnificent educational building was secured , in which were housed the State library, the State museum, and the other educational agencies of the State.

The "multiplication" of work that has been pointed to by a recent sociologist as the secret of American prosperity, has been traced also in its effects in the development of education in New York. #7 Thus it is pointed out that the capital which had been poured into the building of school buildings, from kindergarten to universities, and the number of people who devote their whole time to the teaching of others are a direct expression of abundance of work. Under social conditions where people have to work hard for a meagre living no on has the time or facilities for research, and people do not have the means to pay for teaching.

Institutions of Higher Education.--New York State is remarkable for the large number of institutions of high education which it contains. Within its limits are universities and colleges of the highest rank with impressive histories and a reputation that is world-wide. There are three universities in New York City alone. It is hardly possible within the limits of the space here available to give a description of all these seats of learning, and therefore we pick out half a dozen representative institutions, dwelling a little longer on those outside of New York City than on those within the city, since these latter have already a voluminous literature connected with their names. Leading institutions of high education in the State are: Adelphi College at Brooklyn; Alfred university at Alfred; Clarkson Technical School at Potsdam; College of the City of New York City at New York; Colgate University at Hamilton; Columbia University at New York, including Teachers' College and Barnard college (for women); Cornell University at Ithaca; Elmira College at Elmira; Fordham University at New York; Hamilton College at Clinton; Hobart College at Geneva; Hunter College (formerly Normal College ) of the City of New York at New York; Manhattan College at New York; New York University at New York; Niagara University at Niagara; Polytechnic Institute at Brooklyn; Pratt Institute at Brooklyn; Rensselaer Polytechnic at Troy; Rochester University at Rochester; St. Lawrence University at Canton; Syracuse University at Syracuse; Union University at Schenectady; Vassar College (for women) at Poughkeepsie, and William Smith College (for women) at Geneva; United States Military Academy at West Point; Emma Willard and Russel Sage at Troy; Skidmore College at Saratoga Springs; Long Island University at Brooklyn; and Sarah Lawrence Junior College at Bronxville.

New York's Expenditure for Education.--Despite the great outlay on education, Dr. Frank P. Graves, New York commissioner of Education and president of the University of the State of New York, considers that New York, considering its tremendous wealth, lags behind other States in the proportion of money devoted to the public school. He says:

When one stops to consider that in the year 1925 the total expense of the public school system of the State of New York was $283,506,175, as compared with total expenditure of $71,105,703 in 1915, he is more than ever assured that there is a real educational consciousness on the part of the people with regard to our indebtedness to youth and the importance of fitting the younger generation for the responsibilities of the morrow. The army of young people in attendance in the public schools of the State increased from 1,579,040 in 1915, to 1,915,160 in 1925. The total number of teachers employed in the school of the State during the past decade has increased from 47,881 to 64,321. During this same period there had been evidence of much deeper concern on the part of the public in efficient teaching service in the schools, with the result that the average salary to teachers in all schools of the State increased from $975 to $2,020 in 1925.

There are probably no more important institutions in connection with the education programme of the State than our normal schools and the colleges for teachers, which are our great training centres for the development of teachers who eventually become staff officers of the educational organizations. The appropriations for our State normal schools have increased from $652,342 in 1915 to $1,403,241 in 1925. During this same period the attendance in the State normal schools has increased from less then two thousand students to over five thousand. No one would assume that purely statistical data is of major concern to any school programme. It is only as such resources are more available for the development of character in the younger generation and for the training of youth in individual and group responsibilities which they must assume at an early date that such facts or material assume special interest and become of vital concern.

Notwithstanding the generous provision which New York is making for education both through local and through State funds, it is to be observed that in comparison with he wealth and her ability to support education, New York has occupied a relatively low rank among the States, the commissioner goes on to remark:

In comparison with others States in the basis of the percentage that the cost of public schools is to total taxes, the rank of New York has been forty-three among the States. It may also be for interest to note that the rank of New York State in comparison with other States on the basis of the percentage that the cost of public education bears to expenditures for certain luxuries has been forty-six. New York's rank will, of course, be greatly raised after the Dick-Rice bill, drafted on the report of the Friedsam commission, which was passed by the legislature march 25 (1926), has had time to take effect. Up to this time, while we have made reasonably ample provision for our educational needs, we have not given at all in proportion to our ability.

One of the outstanding features of the development of the school programme in New York during the past ten years has been the amazing increase in secondary school attendance. In 1925 the number of pupils in secondary schools was 382,000 compared with 177,797 in 1915. The secondary school, of course, holds a strategic position in our social democracy, in the opportunity it has for training youth during the early adolescent period. This great increase in attendance during the school years immediately above the compulsory education period indicates without any doubt the burning desire on the part of the large public groups for the advantages of every educational opportunity. The decrease in registrations in our secondary schools during the third and fourth years is indictment of the student body. It is rather an indictment of our inability thus far to develop the right type of educational programme which meets the need of thousands of these young people who have gained admission to the high school, whose needs have not been fully sensed on the part of the school authorities or who have been compelled to leave because of the pressure of economic conditions.

We are not only spending millions of money on our school system, which must, of course, be increased, and we are not only enrolling millions of young people in our school groups, elementary and secondary, but we have also observed that a devoted teaching staff, thoroughly trained far above the average fro the country as a whole, is rendering a service through the public school system that ids fundamental in a democracy, and whose efficiency must be still greater increased if the permanency of our American institutions is to be assured. Now and then propaganda of our American institutions is launched against the schools. The schools are charged with responsibility for this or that social condition. The crime wave that is said to be sweeping over the country has been charged to the schools. Not only do we refuse to subscribe to any such indictment of the public schools, but we go further. We hold that the most helpful oasis in the social situation at the present time is the American public school. The school receives the youth of all ages from every type of home, representative of every race and condition. In the vast majority of school organizations and in almost every schoolroom throughout the country a true sense of American ideals is developed and right attitudes towards life and its relationships results. Our environment has entirely changed during the past generation. It has become so intricate and complex that the youth of today are subject to influences undreamed of a few years ago. The problem of the school is therefore very much more complex. Many functions formerly performed by the home or other social agencies have been thrust upon the school.


The introduction of religion in New Amsterdam was coeval with its settlement.

A religious faith was a most prized possession of the first settlers, who were induced to cross the water by the Dutch West Indies Company; of many it comprised practically all they did possess. A place of worship was promised them, and for the first few years proved to be nothing but a loft in a horse mill. In 1633 Wouter van Twiller was appointed Director-General, and one of his companions on the voyage to his new domain was Everardus Bogardus, the first clergyman in New Amsterdam. Van Twiller planned great things for the settlement and accomplished a few of them. He did see to it that a little wooden church replaced the loft, and that a dwelling house was built for the new "domine." Under William Kieft, the Director-General for the decade from 1637 to 1647, the religious destinies of the colony were not only well looked after, but some of the invasions by other than Dutch religionists took place. A new church was erected, this time of stone with an oak shingled roof. These churches were not built by the company; private subscriptions being taken to defray the costs. It is said that in the case of the stone church there was difficulty in raising the required means, and that only "after the fourth or fifth round of drinking" at a marriage feast, could the Dutchmen be inspired to give what was needed.

During Director Kieft's reign there was quite a migration from abroad, and with it came elements of quite a different character from those sent by the company. The most of these came by way of New England, where, while they sought to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience, they did not desire others who would not worship according to these same dictates. This resulted in the expulsion or removal of some rather notable folks to New Amsterdam. Anne Hutchinson, possibly the brightest women in Boston, but a thorough disbeliever in the temporal authority of the ministry, was expelled with some of her adherents. The most of them fled to New Netherland; Anne took refuge in what is now Pelham Park, Westchester County, where she was allowed to remain in peace, only to meet a tragic death at the hands of marauding Indians. Francis Doughty came for "freedom of conscience, which he missed in New England." John Throgmorton located on the East River with thirty-five English families "for the free exercise of their religion," driven out by the stern orthodoxy of Hugh Peters. So many English people entered the Dutch colony that it was necessary to provide an English secretary as an officer of the province.

There is this which must be said for the Dutch while they ruled New Amsterdam: They showed a very strong disposition to be tolerant in matters of religion. They were strong adherents of their own faith, and the first colonists were forbidden to conduct public worship except as dictated by their own Dutch church, but there was no forcing of their religious beliefs upon others who entered the province. The condition which held in the neighboring Massachusetts, did not penetrate the religious life of New Amsterdam; there were no banishments, no burnings, few persecutions aimed at the imposition of their opinions upon others. Difficulties arose; ecclesiastical authority sometimes conflicted, but the occasions were not many, and the conflict was soon over, often by decision of the Dutch West Indies Company as the final judge.

Many notable Dutch domines entered the religious and secular activities of the province before the surrender of Manhattan Island in 1663. Domine Johannes Megapolensis arrived in 1642, as the pastor of Rensselaerwyck above Albany, the first clergyman to be settled outside of the colony at the mouth of the Hudson River. Bogardus, "the first," lost the good will of Kieft and was replaced by Domine Backerus. In 1652 Domine Samuel Drisius was sent as an assistant to Megapolensis; with him came Domine Gideon Schaats, both of whom settled at Rensselaerwyck. Drisius could preach in Dutch, French and English, and well he needed to, for the up-river colony had many French speaking Walloons in it besides a few English. In 1656 Domine Johannes Theodorus Polhemus presided over the church in Flatbush; and in 1660 Domine Henry Selyns arrived from Holland to take over the Brooklyn church. The church and education went hand and hand in these early days, and probably all of these domines served as schoolmasters. It is probable that Albany, Rondout, Esopus, New Amsterdam, Flatbush, Brooklyn and possibly one or two of the several settlements on Long Island had churches and pastors before 1663.

Stuyvesant and the Lutherans and Quakers.--All was relatively peaceful in the religious circles of the Dutch province until 1654, when the Lutherans asked permission to build a church, bringing to the surface antipathies brought over from the old world. A permit was refused by the Director-General whose decision was sustained by the company, which held that only the "true reformed" should be the religion of the Dutch. The Lutherans persisted until Stuyvesant, two years later, strictly forbade preachers without authority from church or state to hold meetings under a penalty of £100. Persons attending such services were to be fined £25. This was going a bit too far, and the West Indies Company, after a formal rebuke of the Director, ordered that religions other then the Reformed be allowed to "enjoy all calmness and tranquillity." The authorities of New Amsterdam were inclined to override orders from the company, and did so in this case. When during the next year John Ernestus Goetwater, a Lutheran preacher, planned to organize a church, he was prevented from so doing.

Stuyvesant also made life miserable for the few Quakers who, wandering in from New England, endeavored to hold public meetings and teach their peculiar tenets. In Hempstead, Jamaica and Flushing both Quaker preachers and hearers were fined and imprisoned. The most memorable case of persecution was that of John Hodgson, who was not only jailed, but beaten until he dropped when unable to do the forced labor at which he was set. A John Bowne was banished for holding a Quaker meeting in his own home. Stuyvesant became to wrought up over the course of events that he ordered a fast day in the hope of that this might check the progress of the non-conformity in the province. John Bowne returned to Amsterdam and sought redress for his ill treatment from the directors of the West Indies Company, and was successful. Stuyvesant was given another of the rebukes that came in such numbers during his career as the leader of the New Netherland settlements, and it was proclaimed by the Company: "Let every one remain free as long as he is modest, moderate, his political conduct irreproachable, and as long as he does not offend others or oppose the government. This maxim of moderation has always been the guide of our magistrates in this city, and the consequence has been that people have flocked from every land to this asylum. Tread thus in their steps and we doubt not you will be blessed." This pious but vague pronouncement is usually considered to have marked the beginning of religious liberty in New York. Either in obedience to this advice and command, or because he had more serious problems confronting him, Stuyvesant took his heavy hand off of religions and turned it to guiding the destinies of an obstreperous colony. Meanwhile the Staats General were urging the "Christian people of tender conscience, in England or elsewhere oppressed" to migrate to New Netherland, intimating that there they would find the freedom of worship they sought; and many came.

Many Races and Many Religions.--Before the Dutch lost control of New York settlers had entered the country from all over the European world, bringing their religions with them. The Waldenses and the Huguenots had been welcomed from the first. The English had come from either New England or Great Britain and had penetrated to nearly every part of the then opened districts. "In the lists, still preserved, of immigrants are found names of persons from various part of France, from Prussia, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, and Bohemia." Truly a cosmopolitan population! The Reformed Church was the official church, but others, although annoyed at times, were permitted to expand. The Lutherans, in the main, did as they pleased. Presbyterians were numerous and strong. The Catholic missionaries had entered the Indian regions of the State, and an occasional priest visited New Amsterdam, such as the call of Father Le Moyne in 1658. The Episcopal Church was slow in being established, even after the English had taken final possession of New York. Governor Andros, when he returned to England to report concerning his activities in the colonies, said that there were about twenty churches in New York, including Reformed, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anabaptist, Quakers, Independents and Jews. All of these were self-supporting, the English being responsible for the introduction of State maintenance of an official church. Of the denominations, the Reformed was the more numerous and seem to have organized ecclesiastical bodies at Rensselaerwyck, Albany, Rondout, Esopus, New Amsterdam, Brooklyn, Flatbush and some of the other Long Island villages.

An Example of Toleration.--Modern ideas of religious liberty may not accord with those of these early days, but on must search widely to find an example of a like tolerance of conflicting sects in any other part of the world. The liberty of conscience and worship may not have been formulated; what is better, it was lived. Roberts gives an interesting illustration of toleration, and more, in the New Amsterdam of inter-mingled English and Dutch control. "In 1679," writes he, "A classis of the Reformed Church of Holland was organized to ordain Petrus Tesschenmaker, a graduate of the University of Utrecht, who wished to serve as a clergyman on the Delaware. It is a curious incident that Governor Andros, an Episcopalian, gave the official order for the examination of the candidate, and that the ordination was approved by the authorities of the church in Amsterdam. Governor Andros also took the initiative for the building of a new edifice for the Reformed church in New York, and contributed to the free gifts for that purpose; while Rev. Charles Wolley, an Episcopalian, who had come out as a chaplain of the forces in the province, attended the meeting with its pastor, domine Van Nieuwenhuysen." The very government officials were an example of the strange mixture of religions working together more or less amicably. Andros was an Episcopalian; his Lieutenant-governor was Brockholls, a roman Catholic; and the council consisted of members of the Reformed, Lutheran and Presbyterian faiths.

Missions to The Indians.--fore entering upon a discussion of the religious history of New York in the English period, some mention must be made of the Indian missions of the State, who se early story parallels that of the Dutch settlements. Most of the peoples who were America's first colonists stated their purpose to Christianize the natives. The greater part of them were easily discouraged, and the work was left to individual initiative rather than to concerted efforts. The aborigines failed to be tractable, and in many cases, even attractive subjects for religious instruction. Notable efforts were made, such as Eliot, "Apostle to the Indians" from New England. The French took up the burden, and bore it with greater vigor and persistence than any other nationality. This missionary work in Canada and the West is still a marvel to those who study it.

French Missionaries.--The French had rights in New York State by reason of the discoveries of Champlain, and they considered it one of their religious fields. The story of the Jesuit, Isaac Jogues, who was captured and brought to Lake George in 1642, is told in an earlier chapter of this work. Despite the cruel captivity and torture of the Father, the murder of one of his two lay assistants, Rene Goupil, he tried to teach the Gospel to his captors. He was finally ransomed by Rev. Johannes Megapolensis, the Dutch domine of Fort Orange (Albany), and returned later to visit the Indians of the State at least twice, meeting with death on October 18, 1646. Jogues was, by right of faith and martyrdom, the first missionary to the Iroquois.

Joseph Bresanni, 1644, also a Jesuit, was the second to labor with the Indians. His story is very much like that of Jogues--captivity, torture ("he was stripped naked, his nails and the joints of his fingers burned off one by one; he was hung in chains by the feet, and the dogs set to lacerate him"). He was sent to Fort Orange, and bought by the Dutch and sent on his way to Europe. He would not give up, and later worked among the Hurons. Joseph Doucet, 1653, was the third of the French missionaries, and was made captive likewise. Saved by the interposition of an Indian family, he, too, came to Fort Orange, but returned, after he was made well, to preach with the Mohawks. These three, all brought into the State by capture rather then by intent, laid the foundations for the later semi-Christianizing of the "people of the Long House." It is doubtful whether they succeeded any better than did Eliot in New England, or that the results were more permanent.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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