Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

New Laws in Our Own Town

Our people had made one law during this year which was of no little concern to me, even though I did not profit greatly thereby, because of there being no way, save for the school kept by Enoch Flower, in which our people could obey it.

This was a law that every boy or girl must learn so much as to be able to read the Bible, and this before he or she was twelve years old, at which time the school days were over, and a trade, or something in the way of work by which a living might be gained, must be learned by each one, regardless of how great wealth the parents might have.

The children under twelve years of age were required to be able to write a clerkly hand, but more was not required by law; therefore when Enoch Flower had finished off his pupils, he could say that all necessary had been done, since I dare venture to say neither girl nor boy sat under his instruction without being able at least to card and spin.

It was the beginning of this law which pleased me in the wording, for there was good sound common sense therein, and I can repeat it even now, because of having been forced to read it so many times while striving to get the full value of the eight shillings I paid, out of the money earned by making nails, to Enoch Flower.

These are the words which father declared gave good proof that our William Penn was a man of wisdom, for he it was who set down them:

"To the end that poor as well as rich may be instructed in good and commendable learning, which is to be preferred before wealth,"—and verily learning is the only thing which a lad may have in this world that he cannot squander or lose, however much of a spendthrift he may be.

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