Curriculum of late 18th century Latin grammar school in Philadelphia, PA - excerpt (ã ) from Prof. Ziobro's Latin in Early America, pp. 14-17.
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(1). The curriculum of this Latin grammar school in Philadelphia was as follows: --
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.
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.
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 author.
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.
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.
(1) 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: Ist 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 veteri Testamento. 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.
(2) 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.
(3) Snow, The College Curriculum, pp. 129-134.