Massachusetts Bay Colony

The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, were a small religious group that was part of a larger Puritan movement (the Puritans preferred to describe themselves as "the godly," not as the "Puritans"). The Puritan movement denoted a loose collection of religious beliefs, not a particular denominational sect. Puritans believed that all institutions, including government, schools, families, communities, and the Church of England, should be "purified" by cleansing away all cultural characteristics regarded by the Puritans as ungodly.

After the Pilgrim Puritans encountered religious persecution in England, they fled to Holland. Subsequently the Pilgrims sailed to what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. From about 1630 onward, other Puritans organized the much larger Massachusetts Bay Colony under the auspices of the Massachusetts Bay Company. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was located where Boston now stands, and along with Plymouth formed the first two colonies of Massachusetts.

The Puritan movement (in Massachusetts and elsewhere) had some internal variations based upon theology, geography, local group organization, and colonial culture. For example, the Plymouth Pilgrims, headed by Governor William Bradford, tended to be of the working class. Pilgrims wanted to separate from the Church of England. They had no professional clergy, their leaders were elected, and their leadership was considered bound by the rules of the Mayflower Compact. The Plymouth colony had only a small population.

In contrast, the much larger Massachusetts Bay Colony was constituted of more affluent, educated people who identified with high church culture, professional clergy, and English political philosophy. The Massachusetts Bay Colony did not wish to separate from England or the Church of England, but instead advocated internal institutional reform. Massachusetts Bay leaders were not elected, but were considered emissaries of God who were not to be second-guessed by commoners. John Winthrop, a trained lawyer and former government official in England, presided over the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Massachusetts Bay Colony in the modern Boston area eventually came to dominate the economy, politics, legal system, and educational system of the Massachusetts Commonwealth. Modern Massachusetts is much more a reflection of Boston than of Plymouth.

In their new home, the Puritans implemented many of the same onerous legal restrictions upon religious liberty that had vexed them while living in England. For example, John Cotton, a leading Massachusetts cleric, implemented a law that no man could vote unless he was both a Puritan church member and a property owner (non-Puritans were dispossessed of their private property). Additionally, all colonists were legally required to attend austere Puritan church services. If the Church Warden caught any person truant from church services without illness or permissible excuse, the truant was pilloried and the truant's ear was nailed to the wood. This approach was widespread and long-lasting in Puritan society. The Plymouth court of 1752 convicted defendant Joseph Boardman of "unnecessary absence from [Puritan] worship" and "not frequenting the publick worship of God." In short, Puritan salvation was to be achieved through compulsory social engineering of the community, rather than voluntary individual piety.

The Puritans implemented a form of Platonic Christian Socialism, which was based upon an ideological synthesis of such influences as 1) Plato’s Republic, 2) a utopian interpretation of the New Testament (especially Acts 2:44-46), 3) a joint-stock agreement between colonial shareholders and the London-based John Peirce & Associates company, 4) a Continental European cultural attitude toward education (acquired during Pilgrim settlement in Holland), and 5) especially close economic and cultural bonds between Boston's elite and the ruling class of England. During their first three years in the New World, the Puritans abolished private property and declared all land and produce to be owned in common (a commonwealth).

In Plymouth over half the colonists promptly died from starvation. Governor William Bradford observed that the collectivist approach "was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort." He lamented the "vanity of that conceit of Plato's . . . that the taking away of property and bringing community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God." Governor Bradford implemented private ownership of property, but Platonic Christianity continued to dominate other aspects of regional social policy.

For his part, John Winthrop delivered a famous speech in 1630 that articulated the prevailing contemporary Bay Colony ethic of social collectivism:

[W]e must be knit together in this work as one man, we must entertain each other in brotherly Affection, we must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities for the supply of others' necessities, we must uphold a familiar Commerce together . . . [and] make others' Conditions our own, . . . always having before our eyes our . . . Community in the work, our Community as members of the same body[.] . . . [W]e shall find that . . . when [God] shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: the Lord make it like that of New England: for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill.

Winthrop's words were not mere inspirational rhetoric. Each statement reflected an expansive element of social policy, pressed to its logical end and enforced by the Puritans with deadly seriousness.

The leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony openly espoused rule by the elite. "If we should change from a mixed aristocracy to mere democracy," Winthrop once explained, "we should have no warrant in scripture for it: for there was no such government in Israel . . . A democracy is, amongst civil nations, accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government." John Cotton wrote: “I do not conceive that ever God did ordeyne [democracy] as a fit government eyther for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors who shall be governed?"

Despite utopian aspirations, the Massachusetts colonies were quickly beset with political and religious division. Internally, the Puritans persecuted and even tortured non-conforming Christians. In Boston Common, dissenters were hung or buried alive. In 1636, Roger Williams, who became a Baptist, was banished in the dead of winter and led some religious dissidents away to found Rhode Island. The same year, Thomas Hooker, another preacher at odds with the Bay Puritans, founded Connecticut with a separate breakaway group.

Native American tribes, some of whom were suffering from the onslaught of European diseases, also developed a hostile, violent, and deeply distrustful relationship with the Puritans. The Puritans abducted some of the Native Americans to ship to England. In 1633 a law was passed to require that Native Americans would only receive "allotments" and "plantations" if they "civilized" themselves by becoming Puritans and accepting English customs of agriculture and living:

For the settling the Indian title to lands in this jurisdiction is declared and ordered by this Court and authority thereof, that all the lands any of the Indians have in this jurisdiction have improved by subduing the same, they have a just right unto, according to that in Gen. I, 28, and Chapter IX, I, and Psalms CXV and 16, and for the civilizing and helping them forward to Christianity, if any of the Indians shall be brought to civility and shall come among the English and shall inhabit their plantations and shall there live civilly and orderly, that such Indians shall have allotments among the English, according to the custom of the English in like cases.

Laws of Massachusetts, Edition of 1672, at 74. Unfortunately, this Puritan legal concept later inspired Captain Richard Henry Pratt to instigate a devasting nationwide ethnic cleansing program against Native Americans from 1874-1904, which was designed to civilize the tribes and remove them from their lands. Richard Henry Pratt, Battlefield & Classroom 272 (Ed. Robert M. Utley 1964). Pratt forced Native Americans all over the United States to attend and participate in Christian church services in the Massachusetts tradition. Id. at 158-59, 163-64, 181. Pratt's ethnic cleansing movement would rely heavily upon Puritans in New England and New York for essential funding, logistical support, and political endorsement. Id. at 194-95, 197, 200, 202, 214-15, 221, 231, 237, 252, 283, 285.See also Removing Classrooms from the Battlefield: Liberty, Paternalism, and the Redemptive Promise of Educational Choice, 2008 BYU Law Review 377 (full text here and here).

As a colony, early Rhode Island contended against early Massachusetts for more religious liberty, democracy, and individualism. Rhode Island pointedly refused to accept the Massachusetts educational model of schooling, compulsory education (compulsory attendance did not debut until 1852), and affiliated college integration. Connecticut, however, more faithfully retained many of Massachusetts’ cultural characteristics as to matters of religion, law, and education. By about 1672, the Massachusetts culture of education had spread northward to absorb New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and the rest of New England.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony attempted to curtail further dissent by utilizing a tightly-controlled system of schooling and neighborhood monitoring. In 1635, the first "public school" was established in 1635. In 1636, by general vote of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Puritans established what was then termed “the School of the Prophets.” This divinity school, which grew into Harvard College and then Harvard University, was meant to superintend the lives of the colonists and prevent any further deviations from proper doctrine.

With Harvard established as the capstone of their system of social control, the Puritans then set about to construct supporting strictures. The Puritan paradigm utilized certain aspects of the Platonic paradigm of community child raising, including indentured servitude:

[There was a] practice common among English Puritans of "putting out" children--placing them at an early age in other homes where they were treated partly as foster children and partly as apprentices or farm-hands. One of the motivations underlying the maintenance of this custom seems to have been the parents' desire to avoid the formation of strong emotional bonds with their offspring--bonds that might temper the strictness of the children's discipline or interfere with their own piety.

Franz v. United States, 707 F.2d 582, 597 n.61 (D.C. Cir. 1983); see also 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England * 439 ("[English] laws . . . permit the poor [children] . . . [to be] taken out of the hands of their parents, by the statutes for apprenticing poor children; and are placed out by the public . . . [to] advantage . . . the commonwealth. The rich indeed are left at their own option[.]]"); English "Poor Laws" of 1563 and 1601. Later, Captain Richard Henry Pratt reinstated this practice by separating Native Americans and Native American children, subjecting the youth to involuntary servitude for little or no compensation, and considerably enriching the Northeast economy in the process. Richard Henry Pratt, Battlefield & Classroom 129-30, 160, 174, 248, 258-59, 313, 322-23 (Ed. Robert M. Utley 1964). See also Removing Classrooms from the Battlefield: Liberty, Paternalism, and the Redemptive Promise of Educational Choice, 2008 BYU Law Review 377 (full text here and here).

A controlling, punitive culture gradually emerged. The Puritans enacted laws that curtailed parental rights, created community schools, established Puritan precepts as a civic requirement, imposed community taxation for majoritarian schooling, and encouraged citizens to report upon non-conforming relatives and neighbors. By separating children from their parents, community leaders could monitor all family members. No family member could rebel against the community scheme or the official dogma without putting other family members at risk of reprisal. Children became more vulnerable to various forms of abuse.

The Massachusetts Education Law of 1642 (re-enacted with a preamble and local taxation features in 1648) was a natural extension of the Puritan requirement that all citizens had to attend Puritan church services. School was, like church, an institution designed to inculcate a particular world view. Puritans thought that their world view should be sanctioned and disseminated under government auspices. This same precept necessarily underpins the enactment of every compulsory education statute, Puritan or otherwise. The Massachusetts Education Law read as follows:

This court, taking into consideration the great neglect of many parents and masters in training up their children in learning, and labor, and other implyments which may be proffitable to the common wealth, do hereupon order and decree, that in euery towne the chosen men appointed for managing the prudentially affajres of the same shall henceforth stand charged with the care of the redress of this evill, so as the shallbee sufficiently punished by fines for the neglect thereof, upon presentment of the grand iury, or other information or complaint in any Court within this iurisdiction; and for this end they, or the greater number of them shall have power to take account from time to time of all parents and masters, and of their children, concerning their calling and implyment of their children, espcially of their ability to read and understand the principles of religion and the capitall lawes of this country, and to impose fines upon such as shall refuse to render such accounts to them when they shall be required; and they shall have power, with the consent of any Court or the magisrate, to put forth apprentices the children of such as they shall find not to be able to fitt to imploy and bring up . . . They are to take care of such as are sett to keep cattle be set to sime other implyment withall; as spinning upon the rock, knitting, weaving tape, etc. and that boyes and girles be not sufferd to converse together, so as many occasions any wanton, dishonest, or immodest behavior; and for their better performance of this trust committed to them, they may divide the towne amongst them, appointing to every of the said townesmen a certaine number of families to have special oversight of. They are also to privde that a sufficient quantity of materialls, as hemp, flaxe, etc., may be raised in their severall townes, and tooles and implements proived for working out the same and for their assistance in ths so needful and benficially implyment, if they meete with any difficulty or opposition which they cannot well master by their own power, they may have recourse to some of the magistrates who shall take such course for their help and incuragment as the occasion shall require according to justice; and the said townsmen, at the next Court in those limits, after the end of their year, shall give a breife account in writing of their proceding herein, provided that they have bene so required by some Court or magistrate a month at least before; and this order to continew for two years, and till the Court shall take further order.

The 1648 version of the law additionally directed that "The Selectman of every town . . . shall have a vigilant eye over their brethren and neighbors, to see . . . [they] endeavor to teach by themselves or others, their children and apprentices . . . to read the english tongue, & knowledge of the capitall lawes . . . Also that all masters of families doe once a week (at the least) catechize their children and servants in the grounds and principles of Religion."

In 1646, the Colony implemented the “Instruction for the Punishment of Incorrigible Children in Massachuesetts.” On pain of death, the law required parents to teach, and children to accept, a Puritan-approved course of instruction:

(13) If any child above sixteen years old and of sufficuent understanding shall CURSE, or SMITE their natural FATHER or MOTHER, they shall be put to death, unless it can be sufficiently testified that the parents have binn very unchristianly negligent in the education of such children, or so provoked them by extreme and cruell correction that they have binn forced thereunto to preserve themselves from death or maiming. Exod. 21.17, Lev. 20.9 Exod. 21.15.

(14) If a man have a stubborne or REBELLIOUS SON, of sufficient years of understanding, viz. sixteen, which will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and that when they have chastened him will not harken unto them, then shall his father and mother, being his natural parents, lay hold on him and bring him to the magistrates assembled in Courte, and testify to them by sufficient evidence that this their son is stubborne and rebellious and will not obey their voice and chastisement, but lives in sundry notorious crimes. Such a son shall be put to death. Deut. 21, 20.21.

In 1647, the Colony enacted another law called the “Old Deluder Satan Act,” so-called because the statue was supposed to protect children from the satanic influences of their neglectful, ignorant parents. Towns of fifty families or more were required to hire a schoolmaster who would teach children to read and write. Towns of a hundred families or more were required to have a grammar schoolmaster. The schoolmasters were to prepare children to attend Harvard College:

It being one chiefe project of that ould deluder, Satan, to keepe men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times by keeping them in an unkowne tongue, so in these latter times by perswading from the use of tongues, that so at least the true sence and meaning of the orginall might be clouded by false glosses of saint seeming deceivers, that learning may not be buried in the grave of our fathers in thte church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, -

It is therefore ordered, that every towneship in this iurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of 50 householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their towne to teach all such children as shall resort to him to wrtie and reade, whose wages shall be paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in generall, by way of supply, as the major part of those that order the prudentials of the towne shall appoint; provided, tose that send their children be not oppressed by paying more than they can have them taught for in other townes ad it is further ordered, that where any towne shall increase to the number of 100 families or householders, they shall set up a grammer schoole, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so farr as they may be fited for the university, provided, that if any towne neglect the performance hereof above one yeare, that every such towne shall pay 75 to the next schoole till they shall performe this order.

To some degree, the Massachusetts system of social control spread to Connecticut. Borrowing from Massachusetts Education Law of 1648, the Connecticut Code of 1650 provided:

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 therefore ordered by this Court and the authority thereof, that the selectmen of every town, in the several preceincts 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: also that all masters of families do once a week at least, catechise their children and servants in the grounds and principles of religion, and if any be not able to do so much, that then, at least, they procure such children or apprentices, to learn some short, orthodix catechism, without book, that they may be able to answer to the questions that shall be propounded to them out of such catechism by their parents or masters, or any of the selectmen when they shall call them to a trial of what they have learned in this kind. And further that all parents and masters do breed and bring up their children and apprentices in some honest, lawful calling, labor, or employment, either in husbandry or some other trade profitable for themselves and the commonwealth, if they will not, nor can not, traim them up in learning to fit them for higher employments: and if any of the selectmen, after admonition by them given to such masters of families shall find them still negligent of their duty, in the particular aforementioned, whereby children and servants become rude, stubborn and unruly, the said selectmen with the help of two magistrates, shall take such children or apprentices from them, and place them with some masters - boys till they come to twenty-one, and girls to eighteen years of age complete - which will more strictly look unto, and force them to sumbit unto government, according to the rules of this order, if by fair means and former instruction thewy will not be drawn into it.

Of course, legal codes are only a partial reflection of the facts on the ground in the various Puritan communities. Social norms were even more important, because community acceptance was key to survival in the tightly-knit social networks. Failure to comply with social norms could result in harassment, banishment, economic deprivation, and other difficulties, regardless of whether a norm also happened to be formally incorporated into the legal code of a Puritan community.

In Connecticut, Yale filled the same role as Harvard did for Massachusetts. Much later in time, Congregational Reverend Eleazar Wheelock founded Moor's Charity School in Connecticut to "civilize" Native Americans. In 1769, Wheelock moved the institution to Hanover, New Hampshire, and renamed it Dartmouth College. During the Framers' Era, the Baptists complained vociferously about the oppression they experienced as a religious minority in Connecticut.

As the Massachusetts Puritan society became more overbearing, it developed a psychotic quality. Children committed suicide. Furtive adults coped with an environment in which due process and freedom of expression were denied. A dark era of suspicion and fear took hold, culminating most famously in the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 -- 1 2. (Salem is located near present-day Boston). The aim of the trials was to eliminate individuals with "heretical" views or conduct. In practice, heresy included political criticism of the colonial government, eccentric personal behavior, and criticism of the witchhunt itself.

During the purge, nineteen men and women were executed as witches (along with two dogs thought to be accomplices). About two hundred other nonconformists were imprisoned, and four accused witches died in prison. One man who refused to submit to trial was killed using an European torture technique, peine forte et dure, whereby heavy stones are placed upon a man until he is crushed and suffocated. (Plymouth held witchcraft trials as well, but the defendants were acquitted.)

As the bloodlust ebbed, a general sense emerged amongst colonial leaders that their entire community had gone terribly awry. To their credit, judges and jurors issued public apologies for their errors in judgment. Reverend Samuel Parris was replaced as minister after reluctantly admitting to some mistakes. Unfortunately, Chief Justice William Stoughton, the most culpable actor in the bloodfest, refused to apologize. He was subsequently elected to be the next governor of Massachusetts (a feat emulated by Earl Warren, who was elected governor of California after the internment of Japanese Americans).

Fortunately, the lessons of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were not lost upon the Framers of the United States Constitution. For example, home-educated Benjamin Franklin, one of the most influential Framers, frequently clashed with the officials and clerics in Boston. As a youth, Franklin bridled under the Puritan strictures in Boston, defied the Puritan culture of indentured servitude, fled to make his home in Quaker-dominated Philadelphia, and published criticisms of perceived Puritan bigotry.

Franklin also wrote a scathing criticism of Harvard. Writing under the "Mrs. Silence Dogood" pseudonym, he recounted her fictional deliberation about whether to send her son to Harvard. In the process, Dogood fell asleep and began to dream that she was journeying toward Harvard. Its gate was guarded by "two sturdy porters named Riches and Poverty," and students were approved only by Riches. Once admitted, the students "learn little more than how to carry themselves handsomely, and enter a room genteelly (which might as well be acquired at a dancing school), and from thence they return, after abundance of trouble and charge, as great blockheads as ever, only more proud and self-conceited." Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania with a very different educational mandate.

After Franklin invented the lightning rod, many of the Puritans effectively accused him of sorcery. Reverend Thomas Prince, a prominent Congregationalist Puritan pastor of Boston's Old South Church and a graduate of Harvard, led the the charge. Franklin, Prince decreed, had defied the will of God, the "Prince of the Power of the Air," by interfering with His heavenly manifestation. Prince also asserted that Franklin's rods had caused God to strike Boston with the earthquake of 1755. Franklin used his pithy wit to defang the campaign against his invention. Surely, Franklin observed, if interference with lightening was prohibited, roofs also defied God's will by allowing people to stay dry in the face of His rain. Resistance to Franklin's lightening rod subsided when it was discovered that his innovation prevented many churches from burning to the ground.

As another example, John Adams expressed concern about Puritan discrimination against Jews. Much of the discrimination was accomplished through Massachusetts' imposed system of state-mandated religious observance and government-sponsored schooling. Harvard, for instance, implemented policies and quotas which were designed to curtail enrollment of meritorious Jewish students. John Adams unsuccessfully recommended revisions of the state constitution which would have enhanced free exercise of religion. Adams further urged that slavery be prohibited, darkly predicting it would lead to eventual civil war if uncurtailed.

Colonials living in the southern United States were equally wary of Massachusetts practices. In stark contrast to the Massachusetts model of public education, leading Southerners preferred apprenticeship and home education (a lifestyle that predominated until Reconstruction). Tutors and private schooling supplemented the educations of wealthy Southern children. James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, all Virginians, experienced the same general regime of home-education and apprenticeship known to Benjamin Franklin.

In perhaps the most critical indication of all, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams spoke forcefully against the Platonic model of governance by Philosopher-Kings. Jefferson reflected the contemporary sentiment of many of the Framers and Founders when he stated in his letter to Levi Lincoln of January 1, 1802, that "I know it will give great offense to the New England clergy; but the advocate of religious liberty is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them." Jefferson made other comments at odds with the Puritan approach to education, parental liberty, and religious pluralism, including oppression of the Quakers by the Anglican sects. Notwithstanding Winthrop's aspirations in 1630, statements such as "Lord make our Virginian colony like that of Massachusetts" were conspicuously sparse during the Revolutionary Era.

While it is true that Madison, Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson urged their communities to support education and morality in a general way, they pointedly refrained from endorsing Puritan-style compulsory education or compulsory attendance at school/church. Indeed, compulsory education for government schools did not exist during the Framer's time. In the civic scheme envisioned by the preeminent Framers, community schools were to function much like public libraries. Some Framers encouraged communities to fund libraries and establish a system for purchasing books, but few legal scholars would suggest that the Framers were thereby endorsing a state power to compel use of library premises or materials. In the absence of conviction for a crime, such a constraint of liberty would clearly have run afoul of numerous Constitutional protections.

Although the Framers could not politically afford to alienate Massachusetts by openly ridiculing Puritan excesses, the experience of the Massachusetts Bay Colony provided a powerful cautionary subtext for the drafting of the Bill of Rights. The Framers prohibited the federal government from compelling church attendance, imposing religious litmus tests for political office, suppressing free expression, or arbitrarily depriving citizens of liberty. The Bill of Rights did not originally apply to state governments, but the First Congress did craft a Northwest Ordinance to prevent old colonies from spreading their vices to new territories along the wilderness frontier. The Ordinance geographically contained slavery, and state establishment of religion, by requiring the new territories to 1) protect “religious liberty,” 2) afford habeas corpus, 3) respect due process, and 4) prohibit “involuntary servitude.”

The aftermath of the Salem Witchcraft Trials, together with competing intellectual ideas from Franklin, Jefferson, and various competing universities, temporarily slowed Massachusetts' progress toward social engineering. Many of the laws and cultural practices of the Salem Witchcraft Era were temporarily rescinded or downplayed. Preoccupation with survival and the Revolutionary War helped focus attention elsewhere.

By 1805, Harvard Unitarians and Robert Owen socialists had gained control of Harvard. Although the Unitarian socialists were theologically liberal, in contrast to the theologically conservative Puritans, the Unitarians and Puritans both shared a commitment to the use of social engineering as a means for achieving a utopian society. Puritans and Unitarians both agreed that children should be separated from parents and institutionalized--the key disagreement concerned what precise worldview should be imposed upon the captive audiences of children once the social engineering commenced. After the 1820s ushered out the last Revolutionary-Era statesmen, the Massachusetts culture of social engineering reasserted itself. The trend accelerated in 1837, when Horace Mann was appointed to be the first Massachusetts Secretary of Education. Mann promoted tax-supported education and “Normal” schools, which were designed to standardize curriculum by controlling teacher training.

Even the early Puritans and Unitarians did not attempt to legally mandate compulsory attendance at school. But when clashes with Catholic immigrants re-ignited the flames of religious and ethnic hatred, Massachusetts decided that community pressure alone was insufficient to contain the spread of Catholic schools. In 1852, Know-Nothings in the State passed a compulsory-attendance law requiring all children to attend state government schools. By the 1850s, the state system shaped by Horace Mann had gained the favor of those Southerners who were enamored by the Jacksonian Paradigm (many Southerners resisted compulsory education on the ground that it was an aspect of Reconstruction). White Protestants across the nation saw compulsory education as a way to keep demographic minorities under control. Employment and promotion in the compulsory public schools was screened to disfavor demographic minorities, in many cases through the use of required religious oaths for the applicants. See, e.g., Chamberlin v. Public Instruction Bd., 377 U.S. 402 (1964).

Lest the Puritans be condemned too harshly, it should be noted that the Reconstruction Amendments were not enacted until well after the 1852 advent of compulsory attendance in Massachusetts. The Civil War was fought about two hundred and forty years after the first Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving. Until the end of the Civil War, many state governments (especially the older ones) enjoyed the functional ability to establish official state religions. For example, custody and education of children could be taken away from antebellum atheists, notwithstanding habeas corpus protection of parental liberty normally afforded to white parents under the common law. Rollin C. Hurd, 2 A Treatise on the Right of Personal Liberty and on the Writ of Habeas Corpus and the Practice Connected With It: With a View of the Law of Extradition of Fugitives 457-58 (1858)(quoting Story Eq. Juris., Sec. 1341). Strong protection for civil liberties was virtually nonexistent in the world during the Mayflower Era. Moreover, many Christian individuals and denominations, including some with historical ties to the Puritans, have fought against the kinds of practices described above. Puritans were neither the first, nor the last, demographic majority to take children away from demographic minority parents or otherwise oppress non-conformers.

It would take seventy years after the advent of compulsory education before the United States Supreme Court could viably insist upon exacting state observance of the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth-Amendment guarantee of an Equal Protection of Liberty for all citizens. See Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925). During the post-Civil War learning curve, the Jacksonian Paradigm and the vision of Horace Mann coalesced into a political juggernaut. Many special-interest groups have fought for control of state inculcation mechanisms ever since that time, each attempting to use compulsory attendance to impose a favored world view to the disadvantage of all competing world views.

As the Massachusetts model spread nationally, Massachusetts and Connecticut used the federalized system to build regional power and prestige. The Northeastern establishment consolidated American education and law under the socio-political control of Harvard, Yale, and the rest of the Ivy League. In addition to state laws, federal legislation, starting with the Morrill Act of 1862, was employed to solidify Northeastern control over education in the Western and Southern regions of the country. Later Massachusetts and the Ivy League schools led the eugenics movement in the United States, which extended the notion of cultural cleansing through compulsory education to the concept of genetic cleansing through eugenic screening. As institutions with allegedly superior intellects, the Ivy League schools believed they had a burden to improve the rest of the human gene pool. New England jurists also led the effort to limit or overturn the impact of the holdings Meyer and Pierce, with such cases as State v. Hoyt, 146 A. 170 (N.H. 1929).

History textbooks written by Ivy League scholars have heavily influenced historical understanding throughout the United States. For example, Americans popularly believe that the first Thanksgiving occurred on December 21, 1620, in Plymouth Rock, as an original innovation of the Massachusetts Pilgrims. In reality, the Pilgrims probably borrowed the custom from others. Captain John Woodleaf took a group of colonists up the James River on December 4, 1619, and declared "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty god." And even earlier, in 1607, Captain George Popham had led a contingent of English Puritans to share a harvest celebration with the Abnaki Indians of Maine. But Harvard scholars romanticized Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, downplayed the role of the southern Jamestown colony in deference to Massachusetts lore, and omitted any significant discussion of subsequent civil-rights abuses committed by the Puritans. This trend became even more pronounced after the Civil War.

Later materials published by the Ivy League also romanticized the role of Horace Mann and other early disciples of government schooling. Textbook historical accounts omitted mention of the starvations, armed compulsion, abductions, threats, murders, economic coercions, and other human rights violations used to force demographic minorities into compulsory government schools. Through constant, repetitious instruction over many years, government school students were led to believe that the Framers of the United States Constitution advocated compulsory government attendance, even though 1) compulsory attendance was first implemented on a significant basis about seventy years after the Framers' Era, 2) the most prominent Framers were very critical of the educational and theological model of the Massachusetts establishment, and 3) the laws and principles implemented by the Framers were completely inconsistent with compulsory attendance.

The centralized, coercive, government-based educational system created by the fervently sectarian Puritans ultimately backfired in dramatic fashion. The social and educational instrumentalities of the sectarian Puritans were eventually hijacked by the secular Unitarian Socialists. Paradoxically, and ironically, the Puritans' efforts to promote morality through government laid the groundwork for later compulsory imposition of secular humanism across the entire United States.

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