BY FRANCIS H. LINCOLN.
WHERE schools are not vigorously and honourably encouraged, whole colonies will sink apace into a degenerate and contemptible condition, and at last become horribly barbarous; and the first instance of their barbarity will be, that they will be undone for want of men, but not see and own what it is that undid them.
IT is impossible to determine accurately at what date a school was first kept in Hingham. That one existed very early is certain, for in 1661-62 we find an item in the Selectmen's Records for money "paid to John Stodder and Joseph Church for worke done about the Schoole house." In another place an account will be given of the several schoolhouses built by the town, and it will be shown that the site of the earliest buildings was on the hill formerly in front of the Academy. It was on this hill that the first meeting-house was erected, as we know, but there is no evidence of the date of its erection, as there is none of the erection of a schoolhouse prior to 1661-62. It is natural to suppose that Church and School early received the attention of the first settlers. By a law of 1642 "respecting children and youth," it was ordered:
"Forasmuch as the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any commonwealth, and whereas many parents and masters are too indulgent and negligent of their duty in that kind:
"It is ordered, that the selectmen of every town, in the several precincts and quarters where they dwell, shall have a vigilant eye over their brethren and neighbors, to see, first that none of them shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families, as not to endeavor to teach, by themselves or others, their children and apprentices, so much learning, as may enable them perfectly to read the English tongue, and knowledge of the capital laws: upon penalty of twenty shillings for each neglect therein."
In 1647 towns were required by law to maintain a school. The Massachusetts system dates from this act, which was as follows:
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