Item #57701 To the City Council of the City of Providence. Manuscript petition to the Providence City Council concerning public schools. Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers.

The early struggle for public education in Rhode Island

To the City Council of the City of Providence. Manuscript petition to the Providence City Council concerning public schools

Providence: January 30, 1837. 4to (approx. 10" x 8), 5 leaves of ruled stationery, with manuscript in ink on rectos only, in a neat, secretarial hand, bound with blue silk ribbon; previous folds, very light staining, otherwise near fine. Interesting chapter in the historical evolution of the Providence school system. The Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers was politically involved in city affairs as early as 1799, when "the want of a better system of school instruction being deeply felt by the members, a memorial was prepared and presented to the General Assembly, urging the establishment of free schools throughout the State, and reminding that body that liberty and security under a republican form of government, depend on a general diffusion of knowledge amoug the people" (A History of Public Education in Rhode Island: from 1636 to 1876, byThomas B. Stockwell, 1876) In 1837, the association under President George Baker and Samuel Tingley, Jr. Secretary, whose names appear on page four, presented the petition: "Your memorialists have been struck with one fact ... that the instruction of youth in the public schools is a heavy tax upon the middling classes, without an adequate return, as they do not participate in the benefit of this public instruction. This argument, which is evidently weighty in the present condition of these schools, would be destroyed if they were raised to the condition desired by your memorialists. "Why is it that the middling classes do not become participants in this instruction? There is evidently but one reason. They perceive that the crowded state of the schools alone, would prevent proper attention to the pupil; and they are aware that with the small sum which the instructors receive, it is difficult to procure and retain the services of competent persons to fill the station. But let the schools be made so numerous that the scholars may receive as much attention as they do in the private schools, and let the salaries be so large as to induce men of equal ability to take charge of them, and that which is now considered as a tax, would then be viewed as an alleviation of one of the heaviest burdens put upon the middling classes. "Your honorable body have, no doubt ... perceived how far we are behind our neighboring cities in this particular. Whilst they are constantly aiming at perfection in their free school system, we have been at a stand, or retrograding ... To remedy the defect in our present system, your memorialists would suggest that a grade of schools be established between the primary and writing schools, for reading, writing and arithmetic only, the design of which is to give a thorough instruction in these branches to those children whose parents need their services at as early an age as twelve or thirteen years, and who, under the present arrangement, are compelled to leave school with a very superficial knowledge of those branches which are so necessary for obtaining a livelihood in any business ... To effect an essential reform in our public school system, great expense must necessarily be incurred; and your memorialists, who represent a large portion of the heads of families of the city, would meet this increased expense with hearty encouragement." The document is signed "George Baker, President. Samuel Tingley, Jr., Secretary." Page 5 is entitled "Resolutions" and includes a list of seven statements relative to the Association's petition, beginning with "Resolved, that no subject can be of more importance to the inhabitants of this city than the education of the rising generation," and that "the members of this association were the pioneers in the establishment of the Public Schools..." "This petition or memorial was referred to a committee who subsequently reported a plan for the improvement of the schools; but the provisions of it were deemed unsatisfactory. A second plan was presented, comprising twelve primary, eight intermediate, and four upper schools. With these modifications the bill was returned to the common council, who refused to concur. After frequent meetings and protracted debates, with no unity, the board of aldermen devised a plan embracing ten primary schools, six intermediate schools, two upper schools, and two schools for colored children. This, when presented to the common council, was voted down by a large majority, and without any final decision the municipal year closed. The feeling on the school question was now stronger than ever" [Stockwell]. Item #57701

Price: $1,250.00