Possessing Albany, 1630-1710

Education and Child-Life,
page 9 of 17

Many of the other schoolmasters had filled similar offices in the church and community.

This public school, maintained with such difficulty and so many rebuffs through these early days, was successfully continued by the Collegiate Dutch Church after the English possession of New York; and it still exists and flourishes, as does the church. This should be a matter of civic pride to every New Yorker. The history of that school has been carefully written, and is most interesting to read.

Many other teachers were licensed to give private lessons, but these public and private schools did not satisfy ambitious New Yorkers. A strong longing was felt in New Amsterdam for a Latin School. A characteristic petition was sent by the burgomasters and schepens to the West India Company:

“It is represented that the youth of this place and the neighborhood are increasing in number gradually, and that most of them can read and write, but that some of the citizens and inhabitants would like to send their children to a school the principal of which understands Latin, but are not able to do so without sending them to New England furthermore, they have not the means to hire a Latin schoolmaster expressly for themselves from New England, and therefore they ask that the West India Company will send out a fit person as Latin schoolmaster, not doubting that the number of persons who will send their children to such a teacher will from year to year increase until an academy shall be formed whereby this place to great splendour will have attained, for which, next to God, the Honorable Company which shall have sent such teacher here shall have laud and praises. For our own part we shall endeavor to find a fit place in which the schoolmaster shall hold his school.”

The desired “gerund-grinder” to use Tristram Shandy’s word — was soon despatched. The fit place was found, —a good house with a garden. He was promised an annual salary of five hundred guilders. Each scholar also was to pay six guilders per quarter. But Dr. Curtius’s lines fell in difficult places; he could keep no order among his Latin-school pupils, those bad young New Amsterdamites, who “beat each other and tore the clothes from each other’s backs,” and he complained he was restrained by the orders of parents from properly punishing them. (I may say here that I have not found that


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