"I long to be a master of Greek and Latin."
John Adams, Diary,24 April 1756

        On January 27th, 1800, Thomas Jefferson endorsed the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans
in a letter to Dr. Joseph Priestley, a famous English scientist and educator of that period, who was then
residing in the United States:

Dear Sir, - In my last letter of the 18th, I omitted to say anything of the
languages as part of our proposed University. It was not that I think, as some
do, that they are useless. I am of a very different opinion. I do not think them
very essential to the obtaining eminent degrees of science; but I think them very
useful towards it. I suppose there is a portion of life during which our faculties
are ripe enough for this, and for nothing more useful. I think the Greeks and
Romans have left us the present models which exist of fine composition, whether
we examine them as works of reason, or of style and fancy; and to them we
probably owe these characteristics of modern composition. I know of no
composition of any other people, which merits the least regard as a model for
its matter or style. To all this I add, that to read the Latin and Greek authors
in their original, is a sublime luxury as in architecture, painting, gardening, or
other arts. I enjoy Homer in his own language infinitely beyond Pope's translation
of him, and both beyond the dull narrative of the same events by Dares Phrygius;
and it is an innocent enjoyment. I thank on my knees, Him who directed my early
education, for having put into my possession this rich source of delight; and I would
not exchange it for anything which I could then have acquired, or have not since
This letter of Jefferson is the most generous acknowledgment of personal indebtedness to the intrinsic value of a Classical education made by any of the founders of the American nation.2 Jefferson's tribute to the Classical tradition is especially meaningful since throughout his lifetime he was a staunch advocate of the positive values a universal program of formal education contributed to society as a whole. In 1782, for example, in his Notes on the State of Virginia, the only book which Jefferson wrote, he describes the current status of education in Virginia, and suggests many visionary recommendations to extend formal educational systems to all levels of the state's population.3 Also included in this book is Jefferson's praise of the merit of historical studies, especially ancient history, in any formal educational scheme. His description of the value of historical study is as eloquent today as it was when written two hundred years ago: But of all the views of this law [The Diffusion of Knowledge] none is more
important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as
they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading
in the first stage, where they [grammar school children] will receive their whole
education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by
apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail
them of the experiences of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as
judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition
under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views. In every
government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption
and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open,
cultivate, and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers
of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories.
And to render even them safe their minds must be improved to a certain degree.
This indeed is not all that is necessary, though it be essentially necessary. An
amendment of our constitution must here come in aid of the public education.
The influence over government must be shared among all the people. If every
individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the
government will be safe; because the corrupting the whole mass will exceed any
private resources of wealth: and public ones cannot be provided but by levies on
the people. In this case every man would have to pay his own price.4
          Very late in his life, Jefferson became the creative and moving force behind the founding of the University of Virginia. He was soley responsible for the design of its classically inspired buildings, the selection of its first faculty, and the format of its earliest curriculum. Yet, oddly enough, this philosopher of education, university founder, and educational writer, who left ample written record of his educational plans for others and who was ever ready to recommend a detailed list of classical authors to young Virginian gentlemen, is strangely silent about the details of his own education, especially his early training. To be sure, it certainly was Classical in content, as all formal education was in the eighteenth century.5 The only description which Jefferson has given of his own early study of Latin and Greek is a brief one in his Auto-Biography, written at the dusk of his life in 1821: He [his father, Peter Jefferson] placed me at the English school at five years of
age; and at the Latin at nine, where I continued until his death [1757]. My
teacher, Mr. Douglas, a clergyman from Scotland, with the rudiments of Latin
and Greek languages, taught me the French; and on the death of my father, I went
to the Reverend Mr. Maury, a correct classical scholar, with whom I continued
two years; and then, to wit, in the spring of 1760, went to William and Mary college,
where I continued two years.6
        By the time of his arrival at the College of William and Mary in 1760, Thomas Jefferson was most assuredly an accomplished Classicist, but the specific program of study whereby he acquired his language skills in ancient Greek and Latin is only vaguely known. He undoubtedly had previously read the very popular schoolboy authors, Virgil, Cicero, Ovid, Terence and Horace, but it is difficult to determine in what sequence he read them since the order of study of Classical authors for young southern boys, usually gathered from widely scattered plantations, was left mostly to the personal discretion of the local minister or other college educated men who commonly served as tutors. In Jefferson's eighteenth-century south, there simply did not exist a rigidly maintained or universally accepted Classical curriculum, such as that which was advertised and followed in the larger, well established Latin grammar schools of the more densely populated seaport communities of New England. And yet, however varied the sequence of study of the Classical authors may have been in the different geographical areas of early America, in the final analysis, the core list of Classical authors, whether studied in the grammar schools of the north or on  plantations in the south, was remarkably homogeneous. In short, the Classical authors with whom Jefferson and his fellow Virginians,  George Wythe, George Mason and James Madison, were familiar, were virtually identical to those authors with whom John Hancock and John Adams of Massachusetts were also intimately familiar.

          This uniform, literary familiarity of eighteenth-century Americans is directly attributable to the common objective of the early American Latin grammar school, regardless of its geographical location. That objective, from the early seventeenth century through the middle of the eighteenth century, was to prepare young men to meet the entrance requirements of the nearby college. At Harvard College, founded in 1636, these simple requirements were described as early as 1642 as follows:

When any schollar is able to read Tully [Cicero] or such like classicall Latine
Authore ex tempore, & make and speake true Latin in verse and prose, suo
(ut aiunt) Marte, and decline perfectly the paradigmes of Nounes and Verbes
in the Greeke tongue, then may hee bee admitted into the Colledge, nor shall
any claim admission before such qualifications. 7
Harvard's entrance requirements changed little during the next century. In 1734, for example, similar requirements had to be satisfied to obtain admission to Harvard: Whoever upon examination by the President, and two at least of the Tutors,
shall be found able ex tempore to read, construe, and parse Tully, Virgil, or
such like common classical Latin authors, and to write true Latin in prose,
and to be skilled in making Latin verse, or at least in the rules of Prosodia,
and to read, construe, and parse ordinary Greek, as in the New Testament,
Isocrates, or such like, and decline the paradigms of Greek nouns and verbs,
having withal good testimony of his past blameless behaviour, shall be looked
upon as qualified for admission into Harvard College.8
         The admission procedure for an applicant to Yale College, founded in 1701, was similar to that of Harvard and consisted of an examination of a few, standard Classical authors. The rector of the College, sometimes assisted by a nearby minister, also a college graduate, administered the test. The Yale entrance examination also aimed at the same objective as that of Harvard, namely, to determine whether the applicant was "duly prepared and expert in Latin and Greek authors, both poetic and oratorical, as also making Good Latin."9

         The College of New Jersey, modern day Princeton University, founded in 1746, also required that its applicants be competent in the Classical languages. A student would be admitted there in 1748 only if, comparable to his New England counterparts, he could: "render Virgil and Tully's orations into English and turn English into true & grammatical Latin and translate any part of the four Evangelists from Greek into Latin or English."10 It can likewise be assumed that the College of William and Mary, founded in 1690, required all its applicants, Thomas Jefferson included, to satisfy similar Classical language entrance requirements, but the exact authors included in its early entrance examinations are unknown since its eighteenth-century records were destroyed by fire.11

         Every colonial college specifically required knowledge of Cicero and Virgil, and familiarity with elementary Greek for admission.12 No college, however, was as precise as King's College, modern day Columbia University\, in listing by title which individual works of the Classical authors were needed to satisfy its entrance requirements. In 1785, for example, King's College demanded that:

an applicant must possess the ability to render into English, Caesar's
Commentaries of the Gallic War, the four orations of Cicero vs. Catiline;
the first four Books of Vergil's Aeneid; and the Gospels from the Greek.13
          Understanding the curriculum of the early American Latin grammar school today would be a woefully hopeless task, however, if it were based solely on the scanty information contained in these descriptions of the entrance requirements of the early American colleges. Fortunately, two other documents, which have survived the passage of time, provide detailed information about the classroom pedagogy and, equally important, the sequence in which the Classical authors were studied in the early American Latin grammar school. These documents are Cotton Mather's Corderius Americanus, a eulogy written in 1708 for Ezekiel Cheever, the famous master of the Boston Latin Grammar School, and a letter from Cheever's successor, Nathaniel Williams, sent in 1712 to Nehemiah Hobart, a Senior Fellow at Harvard.14 Williams' letter, which describes the curriculum pursued by the students at the Boston Latin Grammar School as they prepared for admission to Harvard College, reads as follows:

                 1.2.3. The first three years are spent first in Learning by heart & then
                            acc:[ording] to their capacities understanding the Accidence and
                            Nomenclator, in construing & parsing acc:[ording] to the English
                            rules of Syntax Sententiae Pueriles Cato & Corderius & Aesops

4. The 4th year, or sooner if their capacities allow it, they are entered
upon Erasmus to which they are allou'd no English, but are taught to
translate itby the help of the Dictionary and Accidence, which English
translation of theirs is written down fair by each of them, after the reciting
of the lesson, and then brought to the Master for his observation and the
correction both as to the Translatio & orthography: This when corrected is
carefully reserved till fryday, and then render'd into Latin of the Author exactly
instead of the old way of Repitition, and in the afternoon of that day it is
(a part of it) varied for them as to mood tense case number &c and given them
to translate into Latin, still keeping to the words of the Author. An example of
which you have in the paper marked on the backside A. These continue to
read AEsops Fables with ye English translation, the better to help them in the
aforesaid translating. They are also now initiated in the Latin grammar, and
begin to give the Latin rules in Propr: As in pres: [Propria: As in praesenti]
& Syntax in their parsing; and at the latter end of the year enter upon Ovid
de Tristibus (which is recited by heart on the usual time fryday afternoon) &
upontranslating English into Latin, out of mr Garretson's exercises.16

5. The fifth year they are entered upon Tullies Epistles (Still continuing the
use of Erasmus, in the morning & Ovid de Trist[ibus]: afternoon) the
Elegancies of which are remark'd and improv'd in the afternoon of the day
they learn it, by translating an English which contains the phrase something
altered, and besides recited by heart on the repetition day. Ov[id]
Metam[orphoses]: is learn'd by these at the latter end of the year, so also
Prosodia Scanning & turning & making of verses, & 2 days in the week
they continue to turn mr. Gar[retson's] English Ex[ercises] into Latin, w[hen]
the afternoons exerc[ise] is ended, and turn a fable into a verse a distich in a

6. The sixth year they are entered upon Tullies Offices & Luc[ius] Flor[us]:
for the forenoon, continuing the use of Ovid's Metam[orphoses]: in the
afternoon, & at the end of the Year they read Virgil: The Elegancies of
Tull[ius'=Cicero] Off[ices]: are improved in the afternoon as is aforesaid
of Tull[ius']: Epist[les]: & withal given the master in writing when the lesson is
recited, & so are the phrases they can discover in Luc[ius] Fl[orus]. All of
which they have mett with in that week are comprehended in a dialogue on
Fryday forenoon, and afternoon they turn a Fable in Lat[in] Verse. Every
week these make a Latin Epistle, the last quarter of the Year, when also they
begin to learn Greek, & Rhetorick.17

7. The seventh year they read Tullie's Orations & Justin for the Latin and
Greek Testam[en]t Isocrates Orat[ions]: Homer & Hesiod for the Greek in
the forenoons & Vergil Horace Juvenal & Persius afternoons. As to their
exercises after the afternoon lessons are ended they translate Mundays &
Tuesdays an Engl[ish] Dialogue containing a Praxis upon the Phrases out
of Godwin's Roman Antiquities. Wensdays they compose a Praxis on the
Elegancies & Pithy sentences in their lesson in Horace in Lat[in] verse.
On repetition days, bec[ause] that work is easy, their time is improved in ye
Forenoon in makeing Dialogues containing a Praxis upon a Particle out of
Mr. Walker, in the afternoon in Turning a Psalm or something Divine into
Latin verse. Every fortnight they compose a Theme, & now & then turn a
Theme into a Declamation the last quarter of the year.18

            Williams' letter, perhaps slightly exaggerated to capture the attention of Nehemiah Hobart at Harvard College, adds several other Classical authors to Cicero and Virgil, the authors explicitly stated by most of the colonial colleges as requisite for admission. Among the authors, newly mentioned by Williams, are Aesop, Erasmus, Ovid, Lucius Florus, Justin, Horace, Juvenal and Persius in the Latin language and Isocrates, Homer, Hesiod and the New Testament in the Greek language. His letter also states that not only were the orations of Tully (Cicero) studied, but also his Epistles, as well as his essay on moral duties, the de officiis. Finally, Williams' letter indicates that two separate works of Ovid were studied, his Tristia and his Metamorphoses.

          Williams' letter is a valuable source of information about the Latin grammar school in early America since it lists which Classical authors, besides Virgil and Cicero, were read. In addition, it describes, to a limited degree, which individual works of these specific authors were studied, in what sequence, and from what point of view they were examined. Furthermore, Williams' letter partially describes the methodology of instruction used in the eighteenth-century Latin grammar school during a typical week, and he even explicitly mentions some of the exercise books which also could be found in the classroom.

          In Corderius Americanus, Cotton Mather (1663-1728) does not spell out, as Williams did, the specific sequence of Classical authors studied at the Boston Latin Grammar School. However, in his tribute to Ezekiel Cheever (1615-1708), who taught for thirty-eight years at the Boston Latin Grammar School, he confirms virtually the same list of Classical authors who were mentioned in Williams' letter:

All the Eight parts of Speech he taught to them
They now Employ to Trumpet his Esteem.
They fill Fames Trumpet, and they spread a Fame
To last till the Last Trumpet drown the same.
Magister pleas'd them well, because 'twas he;
They saw that Bonus did with it agree.
While they said, Amo, they the Hint improve
Him for to make the Object of their Love.
No Concord so Inviolate they knew
As to pay Honours to their Master due,
With Interjections they break off at last,
But, Ah, is all they use, Wo, and Alas!
We learnt Prosodia, but with that Design
Our Masters Name should in our Verses shine.
Our Weeping Ovid but instructed us
To write upon his Death, De Tristibus,
Tully we read, but still with this Intent,
That in his praise we might be Eloquent.
Our Stately Virgil made us but Contrive
As our Anchises to keep him Alive.
When Phoenix to Achilles was assign'd
A Master, then we thought not Homer blind:
A Phoenix, which Oh! might his Ashes shew!
So rare a thing we thought our Master too.
And if we made a theme, ‘twas with Regret
We might not on his worth show all our Wit
Were Grammar quite Extinct yet at his Brain
The Candle might have well been lit again.
If Rhet'rick had been stript of all her Pride
She from his Wardrobe might have been Supply'd.
Do but name Cheever, and the Echo straight
Upon that Name, Good Latin, will Repeat.
A Christian Terence, Master of the File
That arm the Curious to Reform their Style.
He taught us Lilly, and he Gospel taught;
And us poor Children to our Saviour brought.
Master of Sentences, he gave us more
The(n) we in our Sententiae had before.
We Learn't Good Things in Tullies Offices;
But we from him Learn't Better things than these.
With Cato he to us the Higher gave
Lessons of Jesus, that our Souls do save.
We construed Ovid's Metamorphosis,
But on our selves charg'd, not a Change to miss.
Young Austin wept, when he saw Dido dead,
Tho' not a Tear for a Lost Soul he had:
Our Master would not let us be so vain,
But us from Virgil did to David train19
          These few excerpts from Mather's eulogy readily illustrate that Latin grammar, including construing (i.e., changing the Latin word order to approximate the usual English word order), rhetoric, prosody, and theme writing were vigorously taught in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century American Latin grammar schools. Moreover, the grammar book most frequently used to acquire these grammatical skills was Cheever's own shortened version of William Lily's sixteenth-century Latin Grammar, a book long popular in England. Cheever's students were obviously so well drilled in the Cheever-Lily grammar that Mather vividly remembered, long after his own grammar school training, that the adjective bonus, a, um served as the example for second declension adjectives, and that the noun, magister, was the sample word for second declension "-er" masculine nouns. Furthermore, Mather's recollection of his grammatical lessons was so keen that later in this same poem he even made humorous reference to Cheever's well-advanced old age in the seventeenth-century terminology for the pluperfect tense: He Liv'd, and to vast Age no Illness knew;
Till Times Scythe waiting for him Rusty grew,
He Liv'd and Wrought; His Labours were Immense;
But ne'r Declin'd to Praeter-Perfect Tense.20
            In his poem Mather was concerned primarily with describing Cheever's skills as a Latin teacher and the admirable integrity of his character. He was not concerned with listing in their proper sequential order the Classical authors studied in Cheever's classroom. Nevertheless, Mather's poem is so rich in detail that his eulogy contains a working description of the curriculum of the Boston Latin Grammar School and it serves as an informative supplement to Williams' letter. For example, besides adding Terence, an author to be studied for the correctness of his Latin, Mather also confirms the following authors from Williams' list of ancient writers: Ovid (Tristia and Metamorphoses), Cicero (De Officiis and orations), and Virgil (especially Dido's death, i.e., Book 4 of the Aeneid).

    Neither Williams nor Mather credits Ezekiel Cheever with the creation of the seventeenth- or eighteenth-century American grammar school curriculum. Rather, Cheever, just as many other American, colonial schoolmasters, who were trained in English universities, simply transported across the Atlantic ocean to the shores of the intellectual frontier in New England the same grammar school curriculum of England, which had already become standardized there at the beginning of the seventeenth century.21 The immediate source of this bi-continental curriculum can be traced to Erasmus (see Unit III), the most famous of the European humanists and educational theorists, who lived from 1466 to 1536, and who actively promoted his ideas on early classical education in England at the beginning of the sixteenth-century. The ultimate source of Erasmus' grammar school curriculum, however, resided in the educational theory and practice of Quintilian, a late first century A. D. Roman educator (See Unit XIX).

    Just as there can be claimed direct lineage between the Classical education of Antiquity and that of both England and the American colonies in the seventeenth century, so also can there be found a constant and direct line in the format and nature of the Classical curriculum within the American Latin grammar school itself in the eighteenth century, and long thereafter. This notion of "constancy" is clearly illustrated in the 1795 description of the curriculum of the Latin and Greek preparatory school of the University of Pennsylvania. This description confirms that the young students of Philadelphia, at the end of the eighteenth century, learned their Latin grammar and wrote their Latin themes through the same process of memory and repetition, and through a similar process of stylistic imitation of the same list of Classical authors, as did their counterparts in Boston at the beginning of the same century.22 The curriculum of this Latin grammar school in Philadelphia was as follows:

Of the First Class

In this class shall be read the Latin accidence and the rules for the gender and
for the increase of nouns, followed by the vocabulary, from the beginning of the
book to the end of the adjectives; the rules for the praeterites and supines of verbs,
followed by vocabulary from the adjectives to the end of the book; the fundamental
rules of syntax and the rules for the increase of verbs, followed by Sententiae
pueriles and Cordery, and by the practice of putting, once a day, some verb through
its several moods and tenses, showing the formation of each tense and giving the
rules for the quantity of each syllable of increase.23
In hearing a lesson in the nouns of the vocabulary, a rule shall always be required,
not only for the gender of each noun, but for the quantity of the syllable or syllables
increase, if it be a noun which has increase.   In Sententiae pueriles and Cordery, not the first sentence only, but the whole lesson,
shall be parsed.

Through the whole course no book shall be laid aside upon having had but one
reading. There may, indeed, be but few books which can be read through, because
time will not permit, but whatever part of a book is read once, it shall be the practice
of this school to read twice.

In going over Cordery the second time (and the same may be said of Esop and
Erasmus) the boys shall, occasionally at least, be required to hide the Latin and
to translate from the English, and shall be made to commit whole colloquies to
memory, and to pronounce them in open school, with due regard to tones,
emphasis and quantity, as exercises in elocution.
Long before boys have finished the reading of Cordery, they may be supposed to
have gone several times over all parts of grammar, except the rules for the quantity
of final syllables, and what follows respecting feet and the different species of verse
(the knowledge of which could not be of much use to them until they come to read
poetry); yet must not the practice of reciting the grammar by memory be
discontinued, and the usual time of doing it, every morning immediately after the
examination of the versions is as good as any. But these lessons shall be short,
consisting of but two or three rules, so as to take in but ten or twelve lines, and
each boy shall be made to recite the whole without missing a word, under the
penalty of being made to sit down or of being otherwise disgraced as the case
may require.
But when a tutor perceives that, by a perseverance in this practice, all parts of
grammar have become perfectly familiar to any class, he shall, at least every
other day, substitute, instead of the grammar lesson, some beautiful passage,
taken from any of the authors they are then reading, or have read, and consisting
of not above twelve or fifteen, or at most twenty, lines.
Of the Second Class

In this class shall be read, during the first half year, Esop's Fables and Erasmus'
Dialogues; and during the second half year, Selectae e veteri and Phoedrus.

Upon entering in to this class boys shall begin to write Latin versions, or, as they
are more usually termed among us, exercises.

When a class begins to write exercises, the Tutor shall call them up, every
evening before school is dismissed, and make them parse the English which
they are about to translate.

Of the Third Class

The books read in this class shall be during the first six months Ovid and
Selectae e profanis, and during the second six months Ovid and Caesar's
Commentaries.When boys begin Ovid, they shall carefully review what they
had before of Prosody, adding, what they can now no longer do without, the
rules for the quantity of final syllables.

They can no longer do without the rules for the quantity of final syllables,
because the practice of scanning must now commence and accompany every
lesson that is said in Ovid, and afterwards in Virgil and the other poetical
authors.   Upon entering into this class boys shall also be instructed in the general nature
and use of tropes and figures, and be made to commit good definitions to memory,
so as to be able to distinguish them whenever they occur. In Ovid and Virgil they
occur often, and should never be suffered to occur unnoticed. And instead of a
Latin, they shall now be required to bring in, two mornings in every week, an
English exercise; that is, a written English translation of some passage in a Latin

Of the Fourth Class

The books of this class shall be, for the first six months, Virgil and Sallust, and
for the second, Virgil and Terence.

When the boys begin Virgil they shall at the same time be made to begin the
Greek Grammar. But the portion of which any morning lesson in the Greek
Grammar shall consist (and the same rule shall be applied when a class is
learning, for the first time, the Latin Grammar) shall be given out and thoroughly
explained by the Tutor the preceding evening.

Of the Fifth Class

In this class shall be read, for the first nine months, Horace and the Greek
Testament, and for the remaining three months, Horace and Lucian.

Both in this, and in the next class above it, versions or exercises shall be continued,
as directed above. But in addition to these the boys shall now be required to write themes,
which shall be given in and examined every Monday morning, in place of
the exercise. Morning lessons also in the Greek grammar shall continue to be said
in the same way in which morning lessons in the Latin grammar were directed to
be said. And on coming into school, every day in the afternoon, a Greek verb shall
be put through the several moods and tenses, and the rules given for the formation
of each tense.

Of the Sixth Class

The books read in this class shall be, for the first six months, Lucian and Livy,
and for the second six months Xenophon's Cyropedia and Cicero's Orations.24
       The Classical curriculum of the Latin grammar school in early America contributed a valuable, common intellectual heritage to America's leaders during the nation's infancy. This curriculum, which provided a mutually shared and recognizable frame of literary reference and societal standards, as well as a uniform mode of thinking and expression, received continual acceptance and acclaim because it remained constant in format and was enjoyable and stimulating in content for those who partook of it. In 1910, President Eliot of Harvard University, on the occasion of the 275th anniversary of the Boston Latin School, described this very notion of "constancy" in the Classical curriculum in early American education as follows: Sixty-six years ago, when I entered it [1844], the subjects of instruction were
Latin, Greek, mathematics, English composition and declamation, and the
elements of Greek and Roman history. There was no formal instruction in the
English language and literature, no modern language, no science, and no
physical training, or military drill. In short, the subjects of instruction were
what they had been for two hundred years.25
    On the enjoyment which at least one of the classically educated Founding Fathers derived from his life-long study of the Classics, there can be found no more fitting tribute to the pleasure derived from such study than Sarah N. Randolph's description of the reading habits of her great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson, long after his retirement from the presidency and more than a half century after he had first learned his Latin and Greek grammar: In his youth he had loved poetry, but by the time I was old enough to observe,
he had lost his taste for it, except for Homer and the great Athenian tragics,
which he continued to the last to enjoy. He went over the works of Aeschylus,
Sophocles, and Euripides, not very long before I left him (the year before his
death). Of history he was very fond, and this he studied in all languages, though
always, I think, preferring the ancients. In fact, he derived more pleasure from
his acquaintance with Greek and Latin than from any other resource of literature,
and I have often heard him express his gratitude to his father for causing him to
receive a classical education. I saw him more frequently with a volume of the
classics in his hand than with any other book.26
          The reading selections in Volume I of this textbook are sample passages taken from those Latin authors cited in Cotton Mather's eulogy of Ezekiel Cheever, in Nathaniel Williams' 1712 description of the Boston Latin Grammar School, and in the 1795 description of the classical preparatory school of the University of Pennsylvania. These Classical authors constituted the essence of the curriculum of the Latin grammar school in early America, and, not surprisingly, references to these authors appear quite frequently in the writings of several of the Founding Fathers of America. Many such references are cited in the following chapters.

1. Andrew A. Lipscomb, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 10 (Washington, D.C.: The Thomas
Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903), pp. 146-147. See also Koch, Adrienne and William Peden, eds.,
The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York: The Modern Library, 1944), p. 554.
Jefferson's references to translations of Homer include Alexander Pope's English translation of the
Iliad in 1730 and the Odyssey in 1726. Dares Phrygius was a Trojan priest mentioned by Homer who
supposedly wrote a history of Troy in prose. This work, translated into Latin, was attributed at times
to Cornelius Nepos, a Roman historian of the first century B.C., and, in turn, it was expanded and
translated into several of the Romance languages in the Middle Ages.

2 John Adams also extols the merits of his classical education when he states that if as a youth he
had foreseen the career into which he would be thrust as an adult and if he had then studied his
classical languages and literatures more diligently than mathematics and natural sciences, which were
his natural inclinations, he would have been better prepared for his career as a statesman. At any rate,
he was not about to allow his son, John Quincy, to stray in his own educational efforts. In March of 1780,
for example, he writes to his son: "As to Geography, Geometry and Fractions I hope your Master will
not insist upon your spending much Time upon them at present; because altho they are Useful sciences,
and altho all Branches of the Mathematicks, will I hope, sometime or other engage your Attention, as
the most profitable and the most satisfactory of all human Knowledge; Yet my Wish at present is that
your principal Attention should be directed to the Latin and Greek Tongues, leaving the other studies
to be hereafter attained, in your Country." In May of the same year Adams instructs: "I will take this
upon myself, and further I would not have them put any longer to the Master of Fencing and
Dancing--let them attend the Drawing and Writing Masters, and bend all the rest of their Time and
attention, to Latin, Greek, and French, which will be more useful and necessary for them in their own
Country, where they are to spend their Lives." See L. H. Butterfield and Marc Friedlander, eds., Adams
Family Correspondence 3 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,
1973), p. 308 and p. 348.

3 For a summary of Jefferson's early visionary recommendations, see John M. Jennings, The Library
of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, 1693-1793 (Charlottesville, Virginia: The University
Press of Virginia, 1968), pp. 65-67. For Jefferson's general view on education, see Roy J. Honeywell,
The Educational Work of Thomas Jefferson (Cambridge, Massachusetts; Harvard Studies in Education,
no. 16, 1931).

4 From Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIV - "Laws"; see Lipscomb, The Writings
of Thomas Jefferson 2, pp. 206-207; also, Merrill D. Peterson, ed., The Portable Thomas Jefferson (New
York: Penguin Books, 1979), pp. 198-199. The brackets are mine.

5 See Meyer Reinhold, "Opponents of Classical Learning," in Classica Americana (Detroit, Michigan:
Wayne State University Press, 1984), pp. 116-41, for the ever increasing number of attacks on the traditional format of Classical education in early America. But, when all was said and done, sometimes bitterly, classical education, which was so deeply entrenched in the educational format of colonial and post-revolutionary
America, emerged relatively unscathed through the end of the eighteenth century. For an even stronger
statement of the homogeneity and pervasiveness of Classical education in the 18th and 19th centuries in America, see Carl. J. Richard's chapter, "The Classical Conditioning of the Founders," in his The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome and the American Enlightenment (Harvard University Press; Cambridge, MA) 1994), pp. 12-38.

6 See Koch and Peden, The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York: The Modern
Library, 1944), p. 4. The brackets are mine. For Jefferson's views on education, books, and the Classical
world, see Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography (New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1986), pp. 135-179, 233-251, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1935), p. 333
and p. 433.

7 Samuel Eliot Morison, The Founding of Harvard College (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard
University Press, 1935), p. 333 and p. 433.

8 Pauline Holmes, A Tercentenary History of the Boston Public Latin School 1635-1935 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1935), pp. 260-262. See also Samuel Eliot Morison, Three
Centuries of Harvard 1636-1936 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University
Press, 1936), p. 103.

9 Edwin Oviatt, The Beginnings of Yale, 1701-1726 (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University
Press, 1916), p. 199. It was not until 1745 that the trustees of Yale changed any of the original entrance requirements. Then they stated that applicants, in addition to their knowledge of Greek and Latin,
should also understand the rules of "Common Arithmetick." See Richard Warch, School of the
Prophets (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1973), pp. 186-188.

10 Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, Princeton 1746-1896 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
University Press, 1946), pp. 91-92.

11 For a description of the 1705, 1859, and 1862 fires which, to varying degrees, ravaged the records
and the main building of the College of William and Mary, see Marcus Whiffen, The Public Buildings of Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg, 1958), pp. 23-24, 188-198. Also, for some
indication of the social and educational environment which Thomas Jefferson experienced while a student at William and Mary, see A. J. Mapp, Jr., "Young Thomas Jefferson at William and Mary," William &
Mary 55:6 (Winter 1988), 10-15.

12 The Greek requirement was most leniently interpreted, however, as the entry for 11 May 1803 of
the Faculty Minutes of Princeton attests: "Mr. George Harston was likewise admitted to study with the
sophomore class, without being considered as a candidate for a diploma, unless he acquires a competent knowledge of the Greek language, with which he is totally unacquainted." See Princeton University
Archives, Faculty Minutes 1787-1810.

13 Louis Franklin Snow, The College Curriculum in the United States (New York: Teachers College,
Columbia University, 1907), p. 93.

14 For a reproduction and discussion of Williams' text, see Pauline Holmes, A Tercentenary History of the Boston Public Latin School 1635-1935, pp. 258-261. See also K. B. Murdock, "The Teaching of Latin and
Greek at the Boston Latin School in 1712," Publicationsof the Colonial Society of Massachusetts 27, pp. 21-29; John Rexine, "The Boston Latin School Curriculum in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: A
Bicentennial Review," Classical Journal 72 (1976-77), pp. 261-266; and Robert Francis Seybolt, The
Public Schools of Colonial Boston 1635-1775 (New York: Arno Press, 1969), pp. 69-71.

15 In the early eighteenth century there were available several Accidences, or grammar books, of
which the two most popular were William Lily's Latin Grammar, first published in England in 1509, and
its American counterpart, Cheever's Accidence, first formally published in Boston in 1709 with the rather formidable title: A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue, for the use of the lower forms in the Latin
School, Being the Accidence abridged and compiled in that most easy and accurate method wherein the
famous Mr. Ezekiel Cheever taught; and which he found the most advantageous by seventy years
experience. Many nomenclators, or dictionaries, were also available at this time. J. A. Comenius' Orbis Sensualium Pictus, 1658, was, perhaps, the most popular because of its many illustrations. Among the
books which included collections of moral maxims were John Brinsley's Sententiae Pueriles (1622),
Leonhard Culmann's Sententiae Pueriles (1658) and J. Hoole's Catonis Disticha de Moribus (1659, 1670
and 1704); there were many editions of Aesop and Corderius in circulation, including the very popular
one of John Clarke, Corderii Colloquiorum Centuria Selecta (1718). All brackets explaining the
abbreviations in Williams' text are mine. The parentheses are part of the original text.

16 None of the examples "on backside A," mentioned by Williams, have survived. The most commonly
studied essays of Erasmus were his Colloquia familiaria, de Copia Verborum, and his Adagia, for each
of which there were many editions in circulation. Propr: Asin pres.: is a reference to William Lily's
Propria quae maribus, Quae genus, As in praesenti, Syntaxis, Qui mihi construed, or a series of short
essays which were frequently attached to Lily's Latin Grammar. J. Garretson, English exercises for
school-boys to translate into Latin, comprizing all the rules of grammar, and other necessary observations; ascending gradually fromthe meanest to higher capacities (London, 1683, 1687, 1690, 1698).

17 Lucius Annaeus Florus in the early second century A. D. wrote Epitome Bellorum Omnium
Annorum DCC; it is a history of Rome in abbreviated form.

18 Justin's Historia was written in the third century A.D. Thomas Godwin's, Romanae historiae
Anthologiae. An English exposition of the Romane antiquities wherein many Romaneand Englishe
offices are parallelled and divers obscure phrases explained, was published in London in 1658, 1668,
etc. William Walker, Treatise of English particles, showing much of the variety of their significations
and uses in English, and how to render them into Latine according to the propriety and elegancy of
that language. With a praxis on the same (London, 1655, 1663 and 1686).

19 For the complete English text of Mather's Corderius Americanus, see Wilson Smith, ed., Theories of Education in Early America 1655-1819 (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1973), pp. 32-38.
Mather's original eulogy concluded with nearly forty additional lines of Latin verse.

20 Smith, Theories of Education in Early America 1655-1819, p. 36.

21 The sixteenth century English background of the Classical curriculum of early American education
is splendidly described in T. W. Baldwin's two volume, William Shakspere's Small Latine & Lesse Greeke
(Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1944). See also, Courtland Canby, "A Note on the Influence
of Oxford University upon William and Mary College in the Eighteenth Century," William and Mary
Quarterly, 2nd ser. 21 (1941), pp. 243-47. The reduplication of the English educational scheme was so
rigid that Lyon C. Tyler states the grammar school students in early eighteenth-century Virginia "studied
the same books as were by law and custom used in England, but the master was permitted, with the
president's consent to make criticisms on the grammar employed." Tyler, The College of William and
Mary in Virginia: Its History and Work 1693-1907 (Richmond, Virginia: Whittet and Shepperson, 1907),
p. 26.

22 To reinforce the notion of the "constancy" of the curriculum in the American Latin grammar school
over the entire course of the eighteenth century some mention should be made of the curriculum of the
Latin Academy in Philadelphia whose curriculum in 1756 included: lst Stage. Grammar, Vocabulary.
Sententiae Pueriles. Cordery. Aesop, Erasmus. N.B. To be exact in declining and conjugating. To begin
to write Exercises, for the better understanding of Syntax. Writing and Reading of English to be continued
if necessary. 2d Stage. Selectae e veteriTestamento. Selectae e Profanis Authoribus. Eutropius. Nepos. Metamorphosis. Latin Exercises and Writing continued. 3d Stage. Metamorphosis continued. Virgil with
Prosody. Caesar's Comment. Sallust. Greek Grammar. Greek Testament. Elements of Geography and Chronology. Exercises and Writing continued. 4th Stage. Horace. Terence. Virgil reviewed. Livy. Lucian. Xenophon, or Homer Begun. N.B. This Year to make Themes, write Letters; give Descriptions and
Characters. To turn Latin into English, with great Regard to Punctuation and Choice of Words. Some
English and Latin Orations to be delivered, with proper Grace both of Elocution and Gesture. Arithmetic
begun. See Edwin L. Wolf, "Classical Languages in Philadelphia," in Classical Traditions in Early
America, edited by John W. Eadie, (Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan, 1976), pp. 68-69.

23 Cordery, i.e., the same Corderius, or Mathurin Cordier (1479-1564), the French scholar, educator
and writer of Latin textbooks for early education after whom Cotton Mather named his eulogy for
Ezekiel Cheever.

24 Snow, The College Curriculum, pp. 129-134.

25 Holmes, A Tercentenary History of the Boston Public Latin School, pp. 275-276. Bold print is mine.

26 Sarah N. Randolph, The Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson (New York: Frederick Ungar
Publishing Co., 1958), pp. 340-341.

Illustration #1: Nathaniel Williams 1712 Description of the Curriculum of the Boston
                          Latin Grammar School