Ye olde deluder lawThe second education law in America was published in 1647.  It was titled, Ye Olde Deluder Satan Law.  The authors remembered that before the Reformation, the church kept the Scriptures in Latin so that only priests could interpret them for the common people.  Never again would these grandchildren of the Reformation let the Scriptures become so remote to future generations.  Reading the Bible was a vital defense against that old deluder, Satan.

Although spelling rules, as we know them, were different then, you should be able to follow this original source. Sometimes the “y” is used as “th”.

It being one chiefe project of ye ould deluder, Satan, to keepe men from the knowledge of ye Scriptures, as in former times by keeping ym in an unknown tongue, so in these lattr times by perswading from ye use of tongues, yt so at least ye true sence & meaning of the original might be clouded by false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers, yt leaning may not be buried in ye grave of or fathrs in ye church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors…

Here’s the back story.  In the seven years since the pilgrims stepped off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock, they were busy building homes, common meeting areas, planting fields, and establishing businesses and trades.  That Puritan work ethic created prosperity, to be sure. However, to their horror, it became evident the children’s education was being neglected by too many fathers whose prosperity was devouring faithfulness. To quote one of their pastors, Cotton Mather,

“Faithfulness begat prosperity and the daughter devoured the mother.”

Five years before the Olde Deluder Satan Law, Massachusetts passed the first education law in the colonies, The Massachusetts School Law of 1642.  This legislation reprimanded parents who were “not training up their children in learning”.  Every town was ordered to choose men “appointed to manage these prudential affairs and to be charged with the redress of this evil”.

Fines would be imposed upon the negligent.  An account would be taken from time to time of the children, “especially of their ability to read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of the country”.  The families of the community were to pay and oversee the school managers and provide school materials.  Each time the magistrate came to town, he was given an accounting of the progress of the children.

The follow-up Ye Olde Deluder Satan Law was written to make even clearer the town fathers’ plan to keep school districts local and small, and to make sure no one misunderstood their reason for passing both of these laws – children must never become unable to read for themselves the “principles of religion and the laws”.

They knew the chief end of Satan is to keep men from reading the Bible.  This was the most dangerous threat they saw to their colony’s existence and well-being – that the next generation would lose the “true sense and meaning of God’s word and fall prey to the deceptions of seeming-saints”.

Other New England states followed the example of Massachusetts within the next generation. Six generations later, their concerns about Ye Olde Deluder Satan have proven to be well-founded.

(These source documents can be found in Documents of American History, Henry Steele Commager, editor, as published by F.S. Crofts & Co., New York, in 1934. There are a few hard back editions left on internet sites.  Crofts and Co. was sold in 1948 to become Appleton Century Crofts.)

Jeanette Faulkner teaches 7th grade at Grace Classical Christian Academy.

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