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The Massachusetts School Law of 1647 was a historic first for North America: it was the first time a government ordered all towns to support a public school. This was the foundation of the public school system in America. Of course, the motivations for keeping a school have changed. Here, the Puritan General Court ordered schools to prevent "that old deluder, Satan," from gaining a foothold among the youth. Consequently, all of the schools created under this law were, by definition, religious in nature. This excerpt from an 1855 history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts celebrates the law. By 1855, most of states around Massachusetts had adopted free and compulsory public education, but in many parts of the country that idea had not yet caught on and would not until the 1870s or even later.