In many different ways, American cultural life during the Jeffersonian Era began to appear as a reflection of the Republican vision of the future. The Republicans had observed many modernizing trends, some of them favorable and others detrimental to their view of an ideal society. American religion began to adjust to the spread of Enlightenment philosophies. However, one of the most notable alterations was the new emphasis placed upon education. As more and more opportunities for learning arose, the nations literary and artistic life began to digress from the European influences which had governed early colonial society for years. In many respects, the new culture was the antithesis of many Republican ideals, and the new education system fell into that category.
The foundation of the Republican conception of America was based upon a virtuous and educated population; Jefferson himself called for a “crusade against ignorance.” Unmistakably, the Republicans believed that a nationwide system of schools should be created to produce the first wave of an educated populace, which they believed was necessary to the advancement of society. Under the Republican view, all white male citizens would receive a free education. Nonetheless, they were unable to actualize that ideal. However, many of the Republican efforts to better education would in turn spur a movement later on in which an erudite society would thrive.
Many states endorsed the principle of public schooling for all in the early years of the republic. However, a working system of free schools was never put into effect. Later, a Massachusetts law of 1789 validated the statement that every town was responsible for supporting a school. Yet this principle was rarely imposed upon the people. Rather, schooling was primarily placed into the hands of private institutions. In New England and other areas, academies were customarily more secular. In the South and mid-Atlantic regions, religious groups regulated most of the schools. By 1815, there were a large number of private schools throughout the nation, a stark contrast to the Republican dream of America.
The early nineteenth century did invoke some important advances in female education despite the Republican paternal vision of society. They adhered to a view of society where educated...