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April 25, 2013

Public schools created

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, April 24, 1813

Compiled, with comments

by HUGH C. MacDOUGALL

District Schools Established

New School Act, Just Printed, and for sale by H. & E. PHINNEY, Jun. Cooperstown.

COMMENT: The Common School Act of 1812 marked the start of New York’s public school system. Much of the credit for this was due to the radical Otsego County politician Jedediah Peck (1747-1821). To quote the NY Education Department: 

“In 1812 a landmark law established a statewide system of common school districts and authorized distribution of interest from the Common School Fund. Town and city officials were directed to lay out the districts; the voters in each district elected trustees to operate the school. State aid was distributed to those districts holding school at least three months a year, according to population aged 5-15. Revenue from the town/county property tax was used to match the state school aid.

“While the 1812 act authorized local authorities to establish common school districts, an 1814 amendment required them to do so. After 1814, if the cost of instruction exceeded the total of state aid plus local tax, as it generally did, the difference was made up by charging tuition, or ‘rates,’ itemized on ‘rate bills.’ By mid-century New York had over ten thousand common school districts. The typical district had a one- or two-room schoolhouse where children learned reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, and geography.

“The 1812 common school act shaped the future of public education in New York by establishing that 1) common schools are a state function under state control; 2) funding of public schools is a joint state-local responsibility; 3) the school district-not the county or the town-is the primary administrative unit for public education.”

Cooperstown’s school was in “frog hollow” on West (now Pioneer) Street, later a second school was established on what is now Pine Boulevard. They were replaced by a Union School in 1869, headed by William H. Ruggles (ca. 1821-1874).

British Bombardment Ceases

Wilmington [Delaware], April 10. Lewiston [Lewes] is free from the British cannon, after 22 hours incessant attack with 18 and 32-pound balls only a few houses were injured.

The enemy made an attempt to land, but gave up their design and left their station and anchored outside of the light-house. It was supposed to be their design to destroy the light or procure water from a pond a quarter of a mile from the shore. The militia went down to oppose their landing on the 8th inst. [April].

COMMENT: Thus ended the 22 hour bombardment of the Delaware town of Lewiston (today called Lewes), in which 800 projectiles rained down on the town, killing nobody (but causing some destruction). Townsfolk later composed a ditty to the effect that “The captain and all his men, shot a dog and killed a hen.”

It marked the first time in the War of 1812 in which the British employed the Congreve Rocket, a device made famous by “The Star Spangled Banner” (“The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.”)

Military rockets were first used by native troops fighting against the British in India at the end of the 1700s. In England Sir William Congreve (1772-1828) began a program to develop a rocket (i.e., a self-propelled explosive device) about 1804, and they were first used by the British around 1809. As at the later attack on Fort McHenry outside Baltimore, these rockets were virtually impossible to aim accurately, and were of more use in frightening civilians and inexperienced soldiers than in causing real damage. The British Army continued to use them until the 1850s.

American Sailors in England

London, Jan. 1. Yesterday two seafaring men, natives of America, were brought up, and who represented themselves to be in a state of absolute starvation, besides being compelled to sleep in the street for several nights; and, in addition to this, their being afflicted with almost incurable diseases, one with the scurvy, and the other with an ulcer in his leg.

They intreated the Lord Mayor to relieve their distress, either by ordering them to [receive parochial – parish – assistance] or to be admitted into an hospital. His Lordship demanded why they did not apply for relief to the American Consul? To which they replied, that they had made repeated applications, but were refused relief on the ground, that, although they were acknowledged to be America subjects, they had served on board British ships of war, and that as their distresses had arisen subsequent to their being engaged in our service, he [the Consul] would not listen to their having any claim for relief from the government of their native country.

The men stated that they had in vain represented to the Consul that they had been IMPRESSED into the British service; in the present instance, however, they waved [waived] this plea, and begged to inform his Lordship that they had been wounded in the service of Great Britain, and could produce testimonials to that effect.

The Lord Mayor ordered them to be taken into St. Thomas Hospital for the present, or until they were sufficiently recovered to be able to find employment by going to sea.

His Lordship lamented that so many applicants of this description had come before him of late, whom it was impossible on his part to provide for, there being not less than 1,000 of them now in England.

COMMENT: An American is taken off an American ship and forced to join the crew of a British warship. He is then wounded or falls sick aboard that warship, and later shows up, destitute, on the streets of London. Who is responsible for him? The American Consul in London, because he is an American? Or the British government because his injury took place aboard a British warship? Bureaucracy being what it is, the answer was all too often “nobody.”

This was, of course, a British account of the case.

St. Thomas Hospital, then located south of the Thames River in London, was founded in the 1200’s to provide free shelter for “the poor, sick and homeless.”