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Exciting Emulation: Academies and the Transformation of the Rural North, 1780s–1820s

Exciting Emulation: Academies and the Transformation of the Rural North, 1780s–1820s Exciting Emulation: Academies and the Transformation of the Rural North, 1780s–1820s J. M. Opal When James Morris returned to South Farms, in the town of Litchfield, Connecticut, from Continental army service, he found his native parish “a stench in the nostrils of all good men.” Rude, grasping, and hopelessly provincial, the local farmers seemed quite unworthy of the nation he had fought to create. Thus the Yale-educated Morris channeled his energies into teaching the parish youth. Beginning in 1783, he exam- ined his students (girls and boys) in front of the South Farms meetinghouse, award- ing books and other “premiums” to the best scholars. “This apparently excited a spirit of emulation,” he recalled. Soon after, he officially established Morris Academy, which proved popular with the local youth—but less so with many parents. “It was said [that] I was making an innovation on the manners and customs of youth,” Mor- ris recounted. “I was blowing up their pride. They would feel themselves above their mates and they would feel above labor. There must be a stop put to all this.” Some of his critics (Morris lumped them into a single, passive-voiced other) added the lurid charge that he was “too http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

Exciting Emulation: Academies and the Transformation of the Rural North, 1780s–1820s

The Journal of American History , Volume 91 (2) – Sep 1, 2004

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© Published by Oxford University Press.
ISSN
0021-8723
eISSN
1945-2314
DOI
10.2307/3660707
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Exciting Emulation: Academies and the Transformation of the Rural North, 1780s–1820s J. M. Opal When James Morris returned to South Farms, in the town of Litchfield, Connecticut, from Continental army service, he found his native parish “a stench in the nostrils of all good men.” Rude, grasping, and hopelessly provincial, the local farmers seemed quite unworthy of the nation he had fought to create. Thus the Yale-educated Morris channeled his energies into teaching the parish youth. Beginning in 1783, he exam- ined his students (girls and boys) in front of the South Farms meetinghouse, award- ing books and other “premiums” to the best scholars. “This apparently excited a spirit of emulation,” he recalled. Soon after, he officially established Morris Academy, which proved popular with the local youth—but less so with many parents. “It was said [that] I was making an innovation on the manners and customs of youth,” Mor- ris recounted. “I was blowing up their pride. They would feel themselves above their mates and they would feel above labor. There must be a stop put to all this.” Some of his critics (Morris lumped them into a single, passive-voiced other) added the lurid charge that he was “too

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Sep 1, 2004

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