4. The level of education for Americans at the time was astounding. Though no public schools existed in any recognizable sense in the eighteenth century, some “Common Schools” did. At a Common School, tutors and teachers drilled students for hours in Greek and Latin. Even if a student only attended school from, say, ages 6-8, he would learn only classical languages. Parents were expected to teach their children to read, almost always from the King James Bible. The colonists met with great success, and the American colonies probably contained the single most literate people in the world at that time. For those attending one of the several colleges in the American colonies (Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, King’s College (Columbia)), a liberal education was the only real education. As the grand historian of the period, Forrest McDonald, has revealed, when a student entered college (usually at age 14 or 15), he would need to prove fluency in Latin and Greek. He would need to “read and translate from the original Latin into English ‘the first three of [Cicero’s] Select Orations and the first three books of Virgil’s Aeneid’ and to translate the first ten chapters of the Gospel of John from Greek into Latin, as well as to be ‘expert in arithmetic’ and to have a ‘blameless moral character.’” Keeping this in mind, Americans should not be surprised to see the seventy-plus classical references in The Federalist Papers or the architecture of the Capitol building. Americans were, second only to their Protestantism, a classically oriented people.
Related link: 10 Things You Should Know About the American Founding ~ Catholic World Report