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There was also a township fund raised by taxation that was drawn upon to build schoolhouses and pay teachers. A local historian has disinterred from the old records such minutes as the following:

At a town meeting held in Wilkesbarre, August 23, 1773, a vote was passed "to raise three pence on the pound on the district list to keep a free school in the several school districts in the said Wilkesbarre." A subsequent meeting, "especially warned, adopted measures for keeping open free schools, one in the upper district, one in the lower, and one in the town plot." (Wickersham, p. 76.)

A town meeting in Kingston, held December 21, 1773, voted that a committee of three, the men being duly named, be appointed to divide the town into three districts for keeping of schools. The other townships passed similar votes, thus recognizing the fundamental principles of all true systems of public instruction-the common education of all classes, schools supported by a general fund or a tax on property, local management and responsibility.

There appears to have been also a general county educational organization. Thus, at a general meeting of the settlers, held December 6, 1774, it was voted that 15 men, duly named, be chosen as a school committee for the ensuing year. The Wyoming settlement influenced the educational history of the State in three ways: (1) The system of schools first established there continued in operation to the time of the adoption of the State common school system in 1834, when, with little change and no disturbance, it was merged into it; (2) as the nearest approach to our modern public schools of any class of schools then known in Pennsylvania, these Connecticut schools exercised considerable influence in shaping the school legislation which culminated in the act of 1834; (3) it was one of the Wyoming men, Timothy Pickering, so well known in our national history, who in the constitutional convention of 1790 secured the adoption of the article on education upon which was subsequently based the whole body of laws relating to common schools in Pennsylvania up to the year 1834, and by so doing saved the convention from the threatened danger of committing itself to a much narrower policy.


The land ordinance of May 20, 1785; the ordinance of 1787; Article 111 of compacts; powers to the board of treasury, July 23, 1787; enabling act for Ohio, April 30, 1802; Ohio school lands vested in the State legislature, March 3, 1803; grant of lands made to Michigan for schools, June 23, 1836; act to establish the Territorial government of Oregon, August 14, 1848; act to appropriate lands for the support of schools in certain townships and fractional townships not before provided for, May 20, 1826; extracts from acts appropriat`ng university lands to Michigan, 18.26, 1836; provisions of the enabling acts for the States of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington, February 22, 1889; resolutions adopted by the general assembly of Maryland. The Government of the United States is one of delegated powers. Not only is the Constitution framed on this theory, but the ninth amendment expressly declares: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Among the powers delegated, the establishment of schools and the provision of education are not found. The words do not occur in the document. Accordingly, whatever power Congress has in the premises must be sought in the implications of the Constitution as interpreted by history. Propositions relative to the establishment of a national university were brought forward in the Federal Convention of 1787, but only to be rejected. But while the Constitution confers upon Congress no direct power over the subject of education and schools, that body has still legislated upon the subject in several different directions. Its earliest legislation dedicated public lands to the support of common schools and seminaries of learning.

Gifts of lands for the creation and maintenance of schools and other institutions of learning were a well-established practice in Europe and in England long before the settlements of Jamestown and Plymouth were made, and the American colonies very naturally adopted it. Thus, in 1677, the general court of Connecticut voted 600 acres of land forever to each of the four counties of the Commonwealth for the support of grammar schools in the county towns. At a later day the new States and the General Government pursued a similar policy.

At the opening of the Revolutionary war the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia claimed the whole West north of parallel 31°, extending to the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. These claims the other States disputed, on the ground that the Western lands must be won from a common enemy by common efforts, and that they should therefore inure to the common benefit. Time told more and more in favor of the nationalization of these lands, and ultimately the claimant States ceded the major part of them and the jurisdiction of the whole to the nation. The Northwestern cessions were made in the period 1781-1786; the Southwestern cessions somewhat later. These cessions threw upon

Congress the disposition of the Western territory, with the exception of Kentucky and Tennessee, its settlement and government. As the War of Independence drew to its end, both statesmen and soldiers in the Federal Army began to turn their attention to the region northwest of the Ohio River as a theater for colonization. In April, 1783, Col. Timothy Pickering drew up certain propositions for settling a new State by such officers and soldiers of the Federal Army as should associate for that purpose, said State to comprise all that part of the Northwest Territory lying east of the meridian line drawn 30 miles west of the mouth of the Scioto River and the Miami of the Lakes [the Maumee]. Pickering proposed that Congress should purchase this tract of the Indians, and then make grants according to a prescribed schedule to the officers and men entering into the association. One of these propositions contains the first suggestion extant of the future national educational land-grant policy, viz:

7. These rights being secured, all the surplus lands shall be the common property of the State, and be disposed of for the common good; as for laying out roads, building bridges, creating public buildings, establishing schools and academies, defraying the expenses of government, and other public uses.

This suggestion ripened into legislation two years later:

AN ORDINANCE for ascertaining the mode of disposing of lands in the Western territory. Adopted by Congress May 20, 1785.

Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, That the territory ceded by individual States to the United States, which has been purchased of the Indian inhabitants, shall be disposed of in the following manner: * The surveyors, as they are respectively qualified, shall proceed to divide the said territory into townships of 6 miles square, by lines running due north and south, and others crossing these at right angles, as near as may be.

The plats of the townships, respectively, shall be marked by subdivisions into lots of one mile square, or 640 acres, in the same direction as the external lines, and numbered from 1 to 36, always beginning the succeeding range of the lots with the number next to that with which the preceding one concluded. [That is, beginning in the northeast corner and numbering back and forth, west and east.]


There shall be reserved the lot No. 16 of every township, for the maintenance of public schools, within the said township.

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In 1787 the agents of the Ohio Company of Associates, a New England organization that had already projected a colony on the Ohio, resorted to Congress for a grant of lands and a constitution of government. This application led at once to two important enactments:

AN ORDINANCE for the government of the territory of the United States northwest of the River Ohio. Adopted by Congress July 13, 1787. Article III of Compacts.

Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Powers to the board of treasury to contract for the sale of the Western territory. Adopted by Congress July 23, 1787.

The lot No. 16 in each township, or fractional part of a township, to be given perpetually for the purposes contained in the said ordinance [1785]. The lot No. 29, in each township, or fractional part of a township, to be given perpetually for the purposes of religion. Not more than two complete townships to be given

perpetually for the purpose of a university, to be laid off by the purchaser or purchasers, as near the center as may be, so that the same shall be of good land, to be applied to the intended object by the legislature of the State.

These are the powers under which the sale of 1,500,000 acres of land, on the north side of the Ohio River, was made to the Ohio Company of Associates, represented by Manasseh Cutler and Winthrop Sargent, agents.1

It is a common misapprehenson that our educational land-grant policy originated in the ordinance of 1787. On the contrary, the sources of that policy are found in the land ordinance of 1785 and the powers to the board of treasury of 1787. Still it is true, as Mr. Poole has said, that "the ordinance of 1787 and the Ohio purchase were parts of one and the same transaction. The purchase would not have been made without the ordinance, and the ordinance could not have been enacted except as an essential condition of the purchase."

The educational provisions of the land ordinance and of the powers to the board of treasury were purely specific in their application. The first related only to territory ceded by individual States and purchased by the United States of the Indians; the second, only to the sale of lands made to the Ohio Company. But the principles underlying those enactments have been progressively applied to all the public-land States; that is, to all the States west of the Allegheny Mountains, except West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. Commonly the grants have been made in the enabling acts relating to the admission of the several States into the Union.

ENABLING ACT for Ohio, approved April 30, 1802.

And be it further enacted, * * * That the section No. 16 in every township, and where such section has been sold, granted, or disposed of, other lands equivalent thereto and most contiguous to the same shall be granted to the inhabitants of such township for the use of schools provided always, etc. 3

The reservation of school lands in the land ordinance, in the powers to the board of treasury, and in the enabling act for Ohio left unanswered the question of the mode of application. This question was, whether the public schools that the United States had endowed should be under national or State control. In the case of the university there could be no such question, for the act of 1787 expressly said the university lands should be applied to the intended object by the legis lature of the State. By an act approved March 3, 1803, Congress disposed of the open question by vesting in the legislature all lands granted to Ohio for the use of schools "in trust for the use aforesaid, and for no other use, intent, or purpose whatever.”4


The land ordinance of 1785 is found in the Journals of the American Congress from 1774 to 1788, Vol. IV, pp. 520-522; the powers to the board of treasury to contract for the sale of the Western territory, ibid., Vol. IV, Appendix, pp. 17, 18.

Dr. Cutler and the ordinance of 1787. North American Review, No. 251.

Statutes at Large, Vol. II, p. 175. *Statutes at Large, Vol. II, p. 225.

Grant of lands made to Michigan for schools, act approved June 23, 1836.

That section No. 16 in every township of the public lands within said State, and when such section has been sold or otherwise disposed of, other lands equivalent thereto, and as contiguous as may be, shall be granted to the State for the use of schools.1

Previous to the admission of Michigan, one of two forms of grant had been followed. The Ohio form is that section No. 16 in every township "is granted to the inhabitants of such township, for the use of schools." The Illinois form is that the grant "is made to the State for the use of the inhabitants of such township, for the use of schools." The form of the grant for Michigan was an innovation that has been uniformly followed since that time. Under the Ohio and Illinois forms each Congressional township has its own separate fund; under the Michigan form there is one consolidated fund, the income of which is distributed according to school population. The latter practice is evidently more just, and also more conducive to safe and economical administration." It is not surprising, therefore, that some of the older States have attempted to redistribute the township endowments."

AN ACT to establish the Territorial government of Oregon. Approved August 14, 1848. Section 20.

That when the lands in the said Territory shall be surveyed under the direction of the Government of the United States, preparatory to bringing the same into market, sections numbered 16 and 36 in each township in said Territory shall be, and the same are hereby, reserved for the purpose of being applied to schools in said Territory, and in the States and Territories hereafter to be erected out of the same.*

This was the first act appropriating section No. 36 as well as No. 16 for the support of schools. California was the first State to receive the two sections to the township.


Congress has never voted lands for common schools save to the public-land States. But in these States, or rather in two or three of them, section No. 16 in certain tracts could not be dedicated to schools because the tracts themselves had been disposed of as wholes. the Western Reserve in Ohio was exploited by Connecticut, as elsewhere related, and the Virginia Military District, in the same State, by Virginia. Then there were many fractional townships where the customary rule could not be applied. All such cases as these Congress in due time provided for by voting lands found in other localities. The following act, passed in 1826, provided in general for these cases:

CHAP. LXXXIII.-AN ACT to appropriate lands for the support of schools in certain townships and fractional townships, not before provided for.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That to make provision for the support of schools, in all townships or fractional townships for which no land has been heretofore appropriated

'Statutes at Large, Vol. V, P. 59.

Judge Cooley gives the principal facts in regard to the form of the Michigan grant, in his "Mich igan." Commonwealth series, pp. 306–330.

The Indiana school law of 1852 is a notable example of such an attempt. (See Boone: History o Education in Indiana, Chaps. XI, XVI.) All such attempts, however, have failed, as the courts hav held that the contemplated redistribution would be in violation of the trustship of the State. 4Statutes at Large, Vol. IX, p. 330.

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