6 History of Wake Forest College
them had indeed been recognized in the Constitution of 1776, but no
effort to carry into effect the provision requiring their establishment
had been made for many years. In 1802 Governor Benjamin
Williams recommended to the Legislature the consideration of
measures for the general diffusion of learning, and thereafter for
several years various governors made what seem perfunctory
references to education in their messages to the Legislature to which
the Legislature paid no attention. At last, however, in 1816, after
Governor William Miller had in his messages of that year and his
stronger message of 1815 prodded the Legislature to action,
Archibald D. Murphey, being appointed chairman of a committee of
the Legislature to consider the matter, wrote and laid before the
Legislature his first report on education, which is justly regarded as
epochal in the educational history of our
State.4
Though no definite action was taken at the time, an interest in
education was created which continued to grow until 1825, when the
Legislature under the leadership of Bartlett Yancey of Caswell
County provided for the establishment of a literary fund as an
endowment for common schools. By 1838 this fund had grown to
more than two million dollars, and the Legislature of 1838-39
passed an act for the establishment of common schools, providing
for their support from the Literary Fund two dollars for every dollar
raised for the purpose by any county. Schools were at once
established in some counties and became popular and prospered
under county superintendency and management for the first ten
years, and they entered on a new era of usefulness on the election of
Calvin H. Wiley as State Superintendent of Public Instruction on
December 13, 1852. Writing in 1855 Mr. Wiley could say that there
was in North Carolina no longer any necessity for ignorance, that
the schools were the greatest civil institution in the State, covering
―――――――
4
Coon, Public Education in North Carolina, I, 99-113; Ashe, History of North
Carolina, II, Chap. XVI; Noble, A History of the Public Schools of North
Carolina, Chap. IV.
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