Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/594

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
554
ARKANSAS

not a true debt, being a permanent school fund that is not to be paid off; of this total in 3% bonds, $1,134,500 is held by the common schools and $116,000 by the state university. In net combined state and local debt, Arkansas ranks very low among the states of the Union. The hired labourer suffers from the “truck” system, taking his pay in board and living, in goods, in trade on his employer’s credit at the village store; the independent farmer suffers in his turn from unlimited credit at the same store, where he secures everything on the credit of his future crops; and if he is reduced to borrow money, he secures it by vesting the title to his property temporarily in his creditor. His legal protections under such “title bonds” are much slighter than under mortgages. Homesteads belonging to the head of a family and containing 80 to 160 acres (according to value) if in the country, or a lot of ¼ to one acre (according to value), if in town, village or city, are exempt from liability for debts, excepting liens for purchase money, improvements or taxes. A married man may not sell or mortgage a homestead without his wife’s consent.

Education.—The legal beginnings of a public school system date from 1843; in 1867 the first tax was imposed for its support. Only white children were regarded by the laws before Reconstruction days. There are now separate race schools, with terms of equal length, and offering like facilities; the number of white and coloured teachers employed is approximately in the same proportion to the number of attending children of the respective races; in negro districts two out of three school directors are usually negroes. “The coloured race as a whole go to the schools as regularly and as numerously in proportion as do the whites” (Shinn). Of the current expenses of the common schools about three-fourths is borne by the localities; the state distributes its contribution annually among the counties. There is also a permanent school fund derived wholly from land grants from the national government. The total expenditure for the schools is creditable to the state; but before 1909 hardly half the school population attended; and in general the rural conditions of the state, the shortness of the school terms and the dependence of the schools primarily upon local funds and local supervision, make the schools of inadequate and quite varying excellence. The average expenditure in 1906 for tuition per child enrolled was $4.93, and the average length of the school term was only eighty-one days. In June 1906 there were 1102 school houses in the state valued at $100 or less. In 1905-1906 the Peabody Board gave $2000 to aid rural schools, and in general it has done much for the improvement of country public schools throughout the state. In 1906 an amendment to the state constitution, greatly increasing the tax resources available for educational work, was passed by a large popular vote. The University of Arkansas was opened at Fayetteville in 1872. The law and medical faculties are at Little Rock. A branch normal school, established 1873-1875 at Pine Bluff, provides for coloured students, who enjoy the same opportunities for work, and are accorded the same degrees, as the students at Fayetteville; they are about a fourth as numerous. In 1905-1906 there were 497 students in the college of liberal arts, sciences and engineering, 548 in the preparatory school and 26 in the conservatory of music and arts, all in Fayetteville; 171 in the medical school and 46 in the law school in Little Rock; and 240 in the branch normal college at Pine Bluff. The university and the normal school are supported by the Morrill Fund and by state appropriations. The state still suffered in 1906 from the lack of a separate and special training school for teachers; but in 1907 the legislature voted to establish a state normal school. Of the Morrill Fund (see Morrill, Justin Smith), three-elevenths goes to the normal school. The agricultural experiment station of the university dates from 1887. The financial support of the university has been light, about three-fifths coming from the United States government. Besides the university there are about a score of denominational colleges or academies, of which half-a-dozen are for coloured students. Among the large denominational colleges are Philander Smith College, Little Rock (Methodist Episcopal, 1877); Ouachita College, Arkadelphia (Baptist, 1886); Hendrix College, Conway (Methodist Episcopal, South, 1884); and Arkansas College, Batesville (Presbyterian, 1872). There are few libraries in Arkansas. In this matter her showing has long been among the very poorest in the Union relatively to her population. Daily papers are few in number. The state charitable institutions—insane asylum, deaf-mute and blind institutes—and the penitentiary, are at Little Rock.

Local government is of the ordinary southern county type, without noteworthy variations. Municipal corporations rest upon a general state law, not upon individual charters. The liquor question is left by the state to county (i.e. including “local,” or town) option, and prohibition is the most common county law, the alternative being high-licence.

History.—The first settlement by Europeans in Arkansas was made in 1686 by the French at Arkansas Post (later the residence of the French and Spanish governors, important as a trading post in the earlier days of the American occupation, and the first territorial capital, 1819-1820). In 1720 a grant on the Arkansas was made to John Law. In 1762 the territory passed to Spain, in 1780 back to France, and in 1803 to the United States as a part of the “Louisiana Purchase.” Save in the beginnings of western frontier trade, and in a great mass of litigation left to the courts of later years by the curious and uncertain methods of land delimitation that prevailed among the French and Spanish colonists, the pre-American period of occupation has slight connexions with the later period, and scant historical importance.

From 1804 to 1812 what is now Arkansas was part of the district (and then the territory) of Louisiana, and from 1812 to 1819 of the territory of Missouri. Its earliest county organizations date from this time. It was erected successively into a territory of the first and second class by acts of Congress of the 2nd of March 1819 and the 21st of April 1820. By act of the 15th of June 1836 it was admitted into the Union as a slave state.

There is little of general interest in the history of ante-bellum days. Economic life centred in the slave plantation, and there was remarkable development up to the Civil War. The decade 1819-1829 saw the first newspaper (1819), the beginning of steamboating on Arkansas rivers, and the first weekly mail from the east. Trade was largely confined to the rivers and freighting for Sante Fé and Salt Lake before the war, but the first railway entered the state in 1853. Social life was sluggish in some ways and wild in others. An unhappy propensity to duelling, the origin in Arkansas of the bowie-knife,—from an alleged use of which Arkansas received the nickname, which it has always retained, of the “toothpick state,”—and other backwoods associations gave the state a reputation which to some extent has survived in spite of many years of sober history. The questions of the conduct of territorial affairs do not seem to have been contested systematically on national party lines until about 1825. The government of Arkansas before the Civil War was always in the hands of a few families closely intermarried. From the beginning the state has been unswervingly Democratic, save in the Reconstruction years, though often with heavy Whig or Republican minorities.

In February 1861 the people of Arkansas voted to hold a convention to consider the state of public affairs. The convention assembled on the 4th of March. Secession resolutions were defeated, and it was voted to submit to the people the question whether there should be “co-operation” through the Lincoln government, or “secession.” The plan was endorsed of holding a convention of all the states to settle the slavery question, and delegates were chosen to the proposed Border State Convention that was to meet at Frankfort, Kentucky, on the 27th of May. Then came the fall of Fort Sumter and the proclamation of President Lincoln calling for troops to put down rebellion. The governor of Arkansas curtly refused its quota. A quick surge of ill-feeling, all the bitterer on account of the divided sentiments of the people, chilled loyalty to the Union. The convention reassembled on call of the governor, and on the 6th of May, with a single dissentient voice, passed an ordinance of secession. It then repealed its former vote submitting the question of secession