April 15 - 1642: Puritans pass law to teach children how to read the Bible

1912: Cape Cod listens as the Titanic sinks
The horrific message read, "CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD SOS Come at once. We have struck a berg. CQD OM ('It's a CQD, old man'). Position 41 46 N., 50 14 W. CQD SOS." Public domain photo of the RMS Titanic leaving Southampton, England in 1912.

1642: Puritans pass first public education law

The reason: so children could read the Bible

On this day in 1642, Massachusetts Bay Colony passed the first law in the New World requiring that children be taught to read and write.

The English Puritans who founded Massachusetts believed that the well-being of individuals, along with the success of the colony, depended on a people literate enough to read both the Bible and the laws of the land.

Concerned that parents were ignoring the first law (ONE: "I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me."), in 1647 Massachusetts passed another one requiring that all towns establish and maintain public schools. It would be many years before these schools were open to all children.

Only in the mid-nineteenth century was universal free public schooling guaranteed – in time, made compulsory — for Massachusetts children.Colonial Massachusetts was among the very first places in the world to make the education of young people a public responsibility.

The English Puritans who settled Boston in 1630 believed that children's welfare, on earth and in the afterlife, depended in large part on their ability to read and understand the Bible. The success of the colony also rested on a literate citizenry; men should be able to read and understand the laws governing them. The founders of Massachusetts Bay recognized that the next generation would need leaders who were learned in theology, philosophy, and government. For both religious and political reasons, then, the Puritans began almost immediately to establish schools.

The first was the Boston Latin School opened in 1635, the nation's oldest publicly funded school. Unlike most schools in England, Boston Latin was not established by a church; it was created by the Boston Town Meeting. Voters agreed to use rents collected for Deer, Long, and Spectacle Islands in Boston Harbor to support the school and pay a schoolmaster.

Atheists and agnostics often use this as an example of the "Law of Unintended Consequencesns." having far reaching and totally different benefits.  

1912: Wireless messages unanswered from Cape Cod to Titanic

"CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD SOS Come at once. We have struck a berg"

Shortly after midnight on this day in 1912, on the 13,600-ton Cunard liner Carpathia approximately 1,100 miles east of Cape Cod, wireless operator H.T. Cottam was preparing for bed after a long night of sending and receiving messages. On right is artist Willy Stöwer's conception of the scene courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Three hours earlier, the Carpathia's captain, Arthur H. Rostrom, alarmed by warnings from other ships of ice in the vicinity, asked Cottam what other vessels were within range of the wireless.

The Mesaba, the Baltic, the Caronia, the Frankfurt, Mount Temple, Virginian, Birma, and the Olympic, Cottam answered, and a new White Star Line luxury liner -- the 45,000-ton Titanic, the largest passenger steamship in the world.

"Thank you," said Rostron, as described in the 1974 book "Titanic: The Maiden Voyage," by Geoffrey Marcus. "I suppose you'll be turning in presently for the night."

"Yes, sir," replied Cottam. "I may listen to Cape Cod for a while, (referring to the Marconi Wireless Station in Wellfleet), in case there is any news of the coal strike in England."

A few hours later, Cottam put on the wireless earphones for what he thought would be the last time that evening and sent a signal to the Titanic. The response was a curt "K" ("Go ahead").

Cottam signaled back, "GM OM ('Good morning, old man! Do you know there are messages for you at Cape Cod?"

"At the swift response to his enquiry, Cottam's heart nearly missed a beat," Marcus wrote six decades later. "For out of the night came the dread CQD, the international distress call."

"CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD SOS Come at once. We have struck a berg. CQD OM ('It's a CQD, old man'). Position 41 46 N., 50 14 W. CQD SOS."

"In trousers and shirt Cottam raced up to the bridge and breathlessly informed the Officer of the Watch, who in turn awakened the Captain," Marcus wrote. "On hearing the almost incredible news, the first thing Rostron did was to give orders to turn the ship around" and ordered full steam ahead to the Titanic.

But the Carpathia was nearly 60 miles from the Titanic and capable of a top speed of only 17 knots. Two hours later, the Titanic plunged to its watery grave in the bone-chilling North Atlantic, taking more than 1,517 of her 2,223 passengers and crew with her. Another 90 minutes would pass before the Carpathia arrived at the scene and rescued 706 survivors from the Titanic's lifeboats.

CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.