Monday, October 19, 2009

Archived Newspaper Articles from 1855-1899 in DE, NY, PA, ME, IL and CT

The newpaper articles below demonstrate that it was the common understanding in the late 1800's that every parent had a moral obligation but also a legal duty to instruct his child. This duty originated in the moral teachings, but was enacted into early state laws as a legal obligation of the parent as well.

Delaware State Reporter | Dover, Delaware | Friday, February 16, 1855 | Page 1

[Note: Delaware enacted a compulsory attendance law in 1907]

Home Education.

There are two mistakes current in society which deserve the attention of the reader. The first is, the whole duty of a parent, so far as respects education, discharged by sending children regularly to school; the second, that although parents must attend to the physical and moral culture of their offspring, that their minds, at least, may be left wholly to the schoolmaster. School instructions never can supercede the necessity of vigilant parental teaching and training at the fireside. If a comparison were to be made between the two, I should not hesitate attribute greater importance to home education than to school education; for it is beneath the parental roof, when the heart is young and melted by the warmth of fire-side affection, that the deepest impressions are made; it is at home, beneath parental influence and example, that the foundation of physical, moral and mental habits are laid; it is at home lasting opinions are formed.

The other error, that the minds of children may be wholly left to school instructors, is also worthy of special comment. It may be true that some children, without counsel or guidance, may have that docility of temper and expertness of intellect, which will lead them to take ready advantage of of the means of instruction afforded at the schools. But these cases are very rare; and in all instances, children will study with livelier relish if they see that their parents are interested in their progress. If parents look over their lessons with them, and approve or condemn as they are attentive or negligent, they will be quickened by a sense of responsibility. If parents aid them in the mastery of difficulties, and teach them to think and reflect upon their studies, they will not only be cheered by the assistance, but will find, in the exercise thus given to their minds, that delight which the young bird feels as he first tries his wings and discovers the joyous power they bestow. An experienced and sagacious teacher told me but yesterday, that he had had one child in his school whose parents treated him in this way; and that, although he had moderate abilities, he was one of the best and most successful of his pupils. It is not a mistake of parents, then, to give all their thoughts and devote all their time to more worldly cares, and leave the minds of their children to accident? For what employment more delightful than to train the youthful intellect; what occupation so full of pleasure as to lead one's own child forth in the paths of knowledge, and like Adam, when the world was new, give names and characters to all around ; what pursuits so profitable to the child itself, for whose benefit we are willing to toil, as to teach him the dangers of the way, aid him in surmounting difficulties, and at last unfold to him the world of truth, which lies outspread to the view of the beholders ! Say, ye parents, if ye would make an investment for your children, is it better to make it in cash, or in wisdom? Is it better to lay up treasures in the bank, where the moth and rust may corrupt, and where thieves may break through and steal, or in the mind, whose stores are imperishable?

New York Daily-Times | New York, New York | Wednesday, August 08, 1855 | Page 2

[Note: New York enacted a compulsory attendance law in 1874]


Some Considertions on the Relations of the Church to Slavery, and the Duties Resulting Therefrom.

To the Editor of the New York Daily Times:

…..”Although the Slate discharges the master from the duty of instructing his dependent slave in the principles and duties of the Christian religion, the Church cannot discharge him; and as his relation as master puts him, to a very great extent, into the place of parent to his dependent slaves, the Church should require the master to instruct his slaves, or cause them to be instructed in religion, in as perfect a manner, and to as great an extent as is practicable under the conditions of the case. For a neglect of this duty the Church has a right to prescribe and execute suitable penalties.”

Titusville Herald | Titusville, Pennsylvania | Saturday, April 22, 1871 | Page 2

[Note: Pennsylvania enacted a compulsory attendance law in 1895]

Compulsory Education

The question of compulsory education is now agitating the minds of the people of Pennsylvania. A bill has been introduced into the Legislature of this State which required the attendance at school during six months of the year, of all children between the ages of six and fourteen years, and a good deal of opposition to it has been aroused. Some rest their case on the broad ground that a parent has the right to do what he will with his own, and that a man's children are his own if he has any peculiar possessions Others, who admit the paramount interest of the State in the character of its citizens, and the duty of the Commonwealth in its concern for the general welfare to make the training of the growing generation an object of care and responsibility, nevertheless criticise the arbitrary provisions of the pending measure. Their objections are of two kinds. The first is that the contemplated legislation is not widely designed to conciliate the convictions or prejudices of the classes who look upon it as an illegitimate interference in their domestic affairs. The other goes to the express conditions of the bill itself, and raises the question whether at the age of seven years the average nervous American child is not too young to be subjected to the tasks, restraints, excitements and associations of public-school life; not that the child cannot learn the lessons likely to be assigned, but that the stimulation of a precocious development is unhealthy, and in fact rather prevents than aids ultimate attainment of the best results. In this connection arises the consideration of the right of parents who may wish to educate their children at home during their early and most susceptible years. To be sure, all children are not blessed with parents at once capable and faithful in this matter; but some children are, and the law makes no discrimination.

The Texas papers are also discussing the same topic in consequence of certain proposed legislation there. Texas ethics and Texas logic have their peculiarities. The Galveston News is severe on lawmakers who would "pass laws and enact penalties to drive children into the public schools—compel them to attend." It says it is just as much every man's duty to treat his wife with respect, kindness and attention as to provide instruction for his children. "Yet there is no decent man in the community who would not resent as a personal affront, an insult and a grievous wrong, the passage of any law compelling him to treat his wife kindly, under the penalty of fine and imprisonment.” But the editor’s views on the subject of compulsory education are not at bottom so lacking in sound sense as might be inferred from his method of beginning the discussion. The article closes with a statement of the issue which will not be far from satisfactory to the most pronounced advocates of the common-school system.

“If the State provides, as it ought to do, a free school for the instruction of all youth, and our citizens refuse or neglect to send their children, it will then become the duty of the Stale to pass a law punishing the wrong. It is not now a duty to insult our people with the threat to punish them for the neglect of a duty that they will perform with alacrity whenever opportunity offers. It is by no means certain that there will ever be any necessity to punish any parent for not sending his children to school. In fact, the probability is that as soon as opened the school houses will be crowded with children. If they are not, then will be the time to enact a proper law to meet the emergency."

[Note: Texas enacted a compulsory attendance law in 1915]

If this representation of the disposition of the people of Texas to educate their children is a just and fair one, the case is hopeful. With regard to the whole matter it may be said that the one clear duty of the State, is to see to it that every prospective citizen gets a certain degree of rudimentary education, and to provide, for those who cannot obtain it otherwise, sufficient and the least expensive facilities for its attainment. But the policy of requiring all children, those whose parents wish to and will instruct them at home as well as the less fortunate, to attend public schools at the age of seven years is open to serious objection. On the other hand, the children who most need the public school are those least likely to be injured by its emulations or its discipline, and the same whose circumstances make it imperative that they receive their school instruction at that time of life when they are able to contribute least to the support of the family. The perfect adjustment of public systems of education to all of the conditions growing out of the rights of the family, the rights of the child and the rights of the State, is a problem not yet anywhere definitely solved, and we are not sorry to see Pennsylvania and Texas doing something in an earnest spirit to throw light upon it.

Daily Kennebec Journal | Kennebec, Maine | Saturday, February 08, 1873 | Page 2

[Note: Maine enacted a compulsory attendance law in 1875]

On motion of Mr. Lord, the bill to provide for compulsory attendance on schools was taken from the table…

Mr. Hatch of Bangor: …A law of this character has never been enacted in any State in this Union save Massachusetts, and if I am rightly informed, in that State it is a confessed failure. The law is in advance of public sentiment, and unless public opinion favors it, compulsory education must be a dead letter: and where public opinion is so educated as to favor it, there is no need for the measure. Compulsory education may do for Prussian and the German States, but here in a republic like ours, I believe it is not demanded in the interests of education. The real question for us to consider is whether the educational condition of the citizens of our State requires such a law as the one under discussion, and whether there is any advantage to b gained for the cause of education over the voluntary system to which we have been so long accustomed. I do not believe that the leading friends of education in this country are in favor of the compulsory system. I will read a short article taken, I think, from a leading educational periodical, the National Teacher. The article is as follows:

The voluntary system, when supported by appropriate agencies, reaches the people as efficiently as effectively as a compulsory system. Before I can favor the enactment of a general compulsory law in this country, I wish to be satisfied that it will help us. I am not sure that the enactment of a law that children between six and twelve or between six and fourteen, shall attend school three months in a yar, would not decrease the aggregate of school attendance. It would set up a standard which hundreds of families would accept as the measure of their highest duty to their children, and hence they woud be sent to a school a less number of years than they now attend, through the influence of teachers and those who are endeavoring to elevate the popular standard of education and secure a longer attendance in school. It is believed that American youth attend school more years than those accustomed to the compulsory standard. While, therefore, I grant the State plenary power to establish and administer a compulsory system, I have serious doubts respecting the efficiency and necessity of the measure. I find myself clinging to our American system of voluntary school attendance, and if we will only take care of the truants and vagrants, those children who are moral orphans, without parental care and control, if we rescue and educate these, I think we may trust a little longer to this grand voluntary system, planted by our fathers and consecrated by their prayers.”

If such sentiments as these that I have just read are entertained by educated men who have given the subject of compulsory education much thought and attention, we may well hesitate before adopting such a bill as the one before the House.

Mr. Corthell said: The bill was objected to on the ground that such a law … interferes with the liberty of parents. It does not interfere with the liberty of parents to train their children in culture, that shall give habits of good order, and ability to exercise the right of American citizens. It only interferes with the liberty of parents in raising up in their families, those children who shall be burdens to society. …

[Even the supporters of compulsory attendance understood a parent’s duty to instruct his child.]

Mr. Knowlton: …moved to lay the motion to reconsider on the table, and that Tuesday next at 11 o’clock be assigned for its further consideration.

The motion prevailed.


Daily Kennebec Journal | Kennebec, Maine | Friday, January 09, 1874 | Page 1

Governor’s Address [Gov. Nelson Dingley, Jr.]

[some sections omitted]


Notwithstanding the large expenditures to maintain free schools in sufficient numbers to insure to every child such elementary education and training as all alike will need for the common duties and the ordinary pursuits of life, yet the last census makes the startling announcement that there are 10,184 persons in this State, above ten years of age, who cannot read or write. Our State pride may be some what satisfied by the consideration that a large portion of this army of illiterates are immigrants, yet we cannot lose sight of the fact that they and their children are now a part of our people, and that their education into American ideas and duties, has become doubly essential. But the evils of truancy and absenteeism from our common schools are by no means confined to the children of foreign born parents. Poverty may have something to do with the development of these dangerous evils, and thoughtlessness and avarice more, but both of these causes united have not had half so much to do with it as intemperance and immorality. It must be confessed that such is the indifference of the public mind, or its aversion to inference with what is popularly thought to be the right of parents to control their own children, that experience of other States with obligatory statutes, has by no means been encouraging. Even the Factory Act in this State, which requires certain attendance at school of children who work in manufacturing establishments, is a dead letter.

Compulsory laws, with a strong central government to enforce them, as in Prussia have produces excellent results. But in this country, where the execution of the laws depends so much on public opinion, there must be an earnest and general public discussion of the subject, before we shall reap much enthusiasm for such legislation. The right of the State to have every child educated sufficiently to intelligently discharge his duties as parent to shield him against the dangers of ignorance is necessary to its own safety. The child has the right to such an education. The parent, indeed, has rights, but he has duties also; and the enforcement of the duties which every parent owes his child, cannot be an invasion of his rights. Defensible and even important as is a legal enforcement of the parent’s duty to educate his child, yet such a statute can press only as a complement to sound views, wrought into the popular mind and heart. The most important work in this direction at present must be done by earnest personal appeals to parents, and by making the school-room attractive to the child.

No subject claiming your attention as legislators demands more thoughtful and earnest consideration than that of our public schools. A free government like ours can exist only where the people are educated; and there can be no general education without an effective common school system. To compare the efficiency, or sap the foundations of this system, is to strike at the life of the State and the Nation. More than this, it is to overthrow an institution which is doing so much to improve social life, promote private virtue, comfort and thrift, and secure general prosperity.

Logansport Reporter | Logansport, Indiana | Thursday, June 05, 1890 | Page 3

[Note: Illinois enacted a compulsory attendance law in 1883]

“Resolved, That the Democratic party in convention assembled heartily Indorses the public school system of the State of Illinois, and it declares that the parental right to direct, and control the education of the child should forever remain inviolate, and that the provisions of the law of 1889, commonly, known as the compulsory education statute, impairing that Inalienable right, should be at once repealed. Respecting, this subject we adopt the following propositions, and hold them to be self-evident truths:

"1. To determine and direct the education of the child is a natural right of the parent.

"2. There arises out of this parental right the duty to provide education.

"3. When one who by natural or human law owes a duty to another fails to perform that duty the State can—

"(a) Enjoin or compel performance,

"(b) Punish for non-performance,

"(c) Supply the lack where to the injury of society non-performance is wrongfully persisted in.

"4. Wise statesmanship encourages general popular education, but this does not mean or require unjust or unnecessary interference with those who are educating their children according to the best of their ability and comformably to the conditions in life of parent and child.

“5. Compulsory education in the sense that parents who violate or neglect their parental duty may be compelled to its performance or punished for non-performance is licit,

“6. Compulsory education in the sense of controlling or seeking to control or dislodging from their rightful place those parents who are discharging their parental duties commensurately with the state of life of parent and child is not allowable even to the State.

“7. For the education of his children one parent may select the public, another may select the private or denominational school, still another furnish proper education without the aid of any school, and each of these three in so doing exercises a right protected by the law of the land as well as by the law of nature, and for doing which he need offer neither excuse nor apology.

“8. The public and private or denominational schools are in law neither related, nor are they subordinate one to the other, nor need they be antagonistic.

"We favor and pledge ourselves to the enactment of statutes—

"1. To require parents who are not performing their duly in respect to educating their children to do so.

"2. To correct incorrigible truants by providing means for their amendment and to minimize the evils of truancy by sending truant children to such schools as the parents may designate.

“3. To prohibit child labor with all its debasing consequences."

Naugatuck Daily News | Naugatuck, Connecticut | Friday, December 08, 1899 | Page 4

[Note: Connecticut enacted a compulsory attendance law in 1872]


Summary of the laws relating to Truancy, Tardlness and Employment of Children.

We publish to-day a summary of the law in relation to school attendance of pupils between the ages of 4 and 16 years, also the duty of parents and those who have control ol children of school age. It should be carefully read by every parent and guardian in town.

Duty of Parents

The law requires that parents and others who have the control of children over 7 and under 16 years of age, whose physical or mental condition is not such as to render their instruction inexpedient or impracticable, shall cause them to attend school or to be elsewhere instructed regularly while the public schools of the districts in which they reside are in session. The only legal exception to this requirement is that children 14 or 15 years of age may be employed to labor. But every child must be regular in attendance at school while enrolled as a scholar, and must conform to all the rules of the school regarding attendance.

The penalty for each week's failure to send the child regularly is a fine not exceeding $3. But this penalty is not incurred when it appears that" the child has no clothing suitable for school, arid that the parent or person having control of the child is unable to provide such clothing.

Destitute Children.

When children under 10 years of ago have no clothing suitable for school, or are otherwise unprovided for, and their parents or others having control of thorn are unable to provide for them,

the selectmen of the town should furnish assistance or the children should be committed to the county Temporary home.


The law requires regular attendance during the hours while the schools are in session. Therefore, if a child is absent at the opening of tho sessions, or is withdrawn before the close ot the sessions, the parent may incur the above-named penalty—$5 for every week of irregular attendance.


When children under 10 years of age are sent to school by their parents or others who have the care of thorn, but fail to go, they are disobedient aud truant, and may be committed at once to the Connecticut school for boys, or to the Connecticut Industrial school for girls.


No child under 14 years of ago shall be employed in any mechanical, mercantile, or manufacturing establishment. The penalty for violation of this law is a fine not exceeding $60 for each week in which the child is employed. The person who has control of the establishment as well as tho person who hires the child is liable.

A verbal statement by the child or parent regarding the age of the child is not a legal defense for the employer, if the child at the time of employment is under 14 years of age. The ' law, however, provides that a certificate signed by a town clerk or by a teacher of the school which the child attended, or in case such certificate cannot be obtained, a certificate signed by the parent, shall be a legal defense.

Teachers must certify from the record on the school register, not from a statement of the child or parent, when applying for the certificate.

Any person who employs a child under 14 during school hours or authorizes or permits a child to bo so employed may be fined not more than $20.

Agents of the state board of education are required to see that these laws are duly observed in all parts of the state.

Says Boston Schools Are Bad.

[Note: Massachusetts enacted a compulsory attendance law in 1852]

Boston, Dec. 8.—At a meeting of the public school association last night, Mrs. Edwin D. Mend made the statement that one-fourfh of the teachers in the Boston public schools are unsatisfactory, encouraging bigotry, narrowness and immorality. The schools were on the decline she averred, and the souls and minds of the pupils are being placed in jeopardy.