Committee on Visitation of the Schools

in about Warren

Date: May 8, 1769

Pursuant to a Note of the Town of Boston at their Annual Meetings the 4[th] of May last desiring the Selectmen to visit the several publick Schools in the Town and to invite such Gentlemen to accompany them therein as they should think proper & to Report thereon—

We the Subscribers accordingly attended the Service on Wednesday the 6th Day of July last accompanied by the following Gentlemen viz.—

The Honble. James Bowdoin Esq

Thomas Hubbard Esq

Harrison Gray Esq

John Irving Esq

Thomas Fl[ ]er Esq

James Pitts Esq

James Otis Esq

The Representatives of the Town

The Overseers of the Poor—

The Rev. Ebenezer Pemberton

Mr. Samuel Mather

Mather Byles D. D.

Andrew Eliot D. D.

Samuel Cooper D. D.

Mr. Samuel Blair—

Mr. Penuil Bowen

Mr. Simeon Howard

Mr. John Lothrop

Mr. John Walley

Mr. Treasurer Jeffries

Samuel Sewall Esq

Mr. Timothy Newell

William Phillips Esq

Benjamin Austin Esq

Mr. William Coffin Jun

Mr. John Edwards

Mr. James Perkins

Jonathan Simpson Esq

Dr. Myles Whitworth

Dr. Joseph Warren

Capt. Nathaniel Greenwood

Mr. William Davis

John Scollay. Esq

Samuel Adams Esq

Coll. Thomas Marshall

Majr. James Cunningham

William Homer. Esq

Thomas Danes. Esq

Mr. John Milo Wendell

Samuel Quincy Esq.

And found the South Grammar School had 141 Scholars, the North Grammar School 55 Scholars; the South Writing School 205 Scholars; the North Writing School in Queen Street 260 Scholars; all in good Order—

Voted, that the above Report be accepted, and that the Gentlemen the Selectmen be desired to visit the publick Schools the Year ensuing, and invite such Gentlemen to accompany them as they may think proper—

Source: Records of the Town of Boston, Reel 5

Commentary: Joseph Warren participated in civic life as an appointee to committees of the Town of Boston, Massachusetts House of Representatives, and Sons of Liberty. This item documents his participation as one of a large committee of leading citizens charged with performing an annual oversight of the Boston public schools. New England civic life could be notable for the extent to which important decision making and executive functions were the result of teamwork and committees.

Many names of fellow committee members are recognizable to modern historians as Massachusetts businessmen, clergymen, lawyers, political office holders, and Masons. The scope of Joseph Warren’s intersecting circles of friends, acquaintances, Masons and patients was large.

The committee’s census of students totaled 661 out of a total Boston population around 15,000. Even with formal public school attendance limited to Caucasian boys, the extent of basic literacy among the general population was notable by comparison both with other American provinces and within the British Empire. Some girls, and even the very exceptional slave, could be home schooled by an encouraging family or through diligent self-study. Daughters of Liberty writers like Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, and Abigail Adams, demonstrate that such exceptions could achieve an impressive level of mastery of literary form, content, insight, and creativity. Miss Mercy Scollay, a daughter of Boston Selectman and merchant John Scollay, may have been such a woman.

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