Category Archives: Education

Item of the Day: On Vocal Music (1787)

Found In: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings. On Moral, Historical, Political and Literary Subjects. By Noah Webster, Jun. Attorney at Law. Pronted at Boston, for the author, by I. Thomas and E. T. Andrews . . . MDCCXC. [1790]

[pp. 229-230]






The establishment of schools for teaching psalmody in this city is a pleasing institution; but people seem not to understand the design, or rather are not properly conducted and encouraged. Most people consider music merely as a source of pleasure; not attending to its influence on the human mind, and its consequent effects on society. But it should be regarded as an article of education, useful as well as ornamental.

The human mind is formed for activity; and will ever be employed in business or diversions. Children are prepetually in motion, and all the ingenuity of their parents and guardians should be exerted to devise methods for restraining this activ principle, and directing it to some useful object, or to harmeless trifles. If this is not done, their propensity to action, even without a vicious motiv, will hurry them into follies and crimes. Every thing innocent, that attracts the attention of children, and will employ their minds in leisure hours, when idleness might otherwise open the way to vice, must be considered as a valuable employment. Of this kind is vocal music. There were instances of youth, the last winter, who voluntarily attended a singing school in preference to theatre. It is but reasonable to suppose, that if they would neglect a theatre for singing, they would neglect a thousand amusements, less engaging, and more pernicious.

Instrumental music is generally prefered to vocal, and considered as an elegant accomplishment. It is indeed a pleasing accomplishment; but the preference given to it, is a species of the same false taste, which places a son under the tuition of a drunken clown, to make him a gentleman of strict morals.

Instrumental music may exceed vocal in some nice touches and distinctions of sound; but when regarded as to its effects upn the mind and upon society, it is as inferior to vocal, as sound is inferior to sense. It is very easy for a spruce beau to display a contempt for vocal music, and to say that human invention has gone beyond the works of God almighty. But till the system of creation shall be new modelled, the human voice properly cultivated will be capable of making he most perfect music. It is neglected; sol saing is unfashionable, and that is enough to damn it: But people who have not been acquainted with the perfection of psalmody, are incapable of making a suitable comparison between vocal and instrumental music. I have often heard the best vocal concerts in America, and the best instrumental concerts; and can declare, that the music of the latter is as inferior to that of the former, as the merit of a band box macaroni is to that of a Cato.

Instrumental music affords an agreeable amusement; and as an amusement it ought to be cultivated. But the advantage is private and limited; it pleases the ear, but leaves no impression upon the heart.

The design of music is to awaken the passions, to soften the heart for the reception of sentiment. To awaken passion is within the power of instruments, and this may afford a temporary pleasure; but society derives no advantage from it, unless some useful sentiment is left upon the heart. . . .



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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Early Republic, Education, Music, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings (1790)

Full Title: A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings. On Moral, Historical, Political and Literary Subjects. By Noah Webster, Jun. Attorney at Law. Printed at Boston, for the author, by I. Thomas and E. T. Andrews . . . MDCCXC. [1790]

[The following text has been transcribed exactly as it appears in the preface. No corrections or alterations have been made to grammar or spelling]. 


The following Collection consists of Essays and Fugitiv Peeces, ritten at various times, and on different occasions, az wil appeer by their dates and subjects. Many of them were dictated at the moment, by the impulse of impressions made by important political events, and abound with a correspondent warmth of expression. This freedom of language wil be excused by the frends of the revolution and of good guvernment, who wil recollect the sensations they hav experienced, amidst the anarky and distraction which succeeded the cloze of the war. On such occasions a riter wil naturally giv himelf up to hiz feelings, and hiz manner of riting wil flow from hiz manner of thinking.

Most of thoze peeces, which hav appeered before in periodical papers and Magazeens, were published with fictitious signatures; for I very erly discuvered, that altho the name of an old and respectable karacter givs credit and consequence to hiz ritings, yet the name of a yung man iz often prejudicial to hiz performances. By conceeling my name, the opinions of men hav been prezerved from an undu bias arizing from personal prejudices, the faults of the ritings hav been detected, and their merit in public estimation ascertained.

The favorable reception given to a number of theze Essays by an indulgent public, induced me to publish them in a volum, with such alterations and emendations, az I had heerd suggested by frends or indifferent reeders, together with some manuscripts, that my own wishes led me to hope might be useful.

During the course of ten or twelv yeers, I hav been laboring to correct popular errors, and to assist my yung brethren in the road to truth and virtue; my publications for theze purposes hav been mumerous; much time haz been spent, which I do not regret, and much censure incurred, which my hart tells me I do not dezerv. The influence of a yung writer cannot be so powerful or extensiv az that of an established karacter; but I hav ever thot a man’s usefulness depends mor on exertion than on talents. I am attached to America by berth, education and habit; but abuv all, by a philosophical view of her situation, and the superior advantages she enjoys, for augmenting the sum of social happiness.

I should hav added another volum, had not recent experience convinced me, that few large publications in this country wil pay a printer, much less an author. Should the Essays here presented to the public, proov undezerving of notice, I shal, with cheerfulness, resign my other papers to oblivion.

The reeder wil obzerv that the orthography of the volume iz not uniform. The reezon iz, that many of the essays hav been published before, in the common orthography, and it would hav been a laborious task to copy the whole, for the sake of changing the spelling.

In the essays ritten within the last yeer, a considerable change of spelling iz introduced by way of experiment. This liberty waz taken by the writers before the age of queen Elizabeth, and to this we are indeted for the preference of modern spelling over that of Gower and Chaucer. The man who admits that the change of housoonde, mynde, ygone, moneth into husband, mind, gone, month, iz an improovment, must acknowlege also the riting of helth, breth, rong, tung, munth, to be an improovment. There iz no alternativ. Every possible reezon that could ever be offered for altering the spelling of wurds, still exists in full force; and if a gradual reform should not be made in our language, it wil proove that we are less under the influence of reezon than our ancestors.

Hartford, June, 1790.


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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Early Republic, Education, Eighteenth century, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Red Jacket’s Reply to a Missionary at a Council of the Chiefs of the Six Nations (1805)

Found In: The American First Class Book; or, Exercises in Reading and Recitation: Selected Principally from Modern Authors of Great Britain and America; and Designed for the Use of the Highest Class in Publick and Private Schools. By John Pierpont. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins and Richardson, Lord & Holbrook, 1831.


Reply to the Address of a Missionary at a Council of the Chiefs of “the Six Nations,” in 1805, —by Saghym Whothah, alias Red Jacket.  —PHILANTHROPIST

“Friend and Brother!

It was the will of the Great Spirit, that we should meet together this day. He orders all things; and has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken his garment from the sun, and caused it to shine with brightness upon us. Our eyes are opened that we see clearly; our ears are unstopped, that we have been able to hear distinctly the words you have spoken. For all these favours we thank the Great Spirit, and him only.

Brother! Listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising to the setting sun: the Great Spirit had made it for the use of the Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver; their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country, and taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread. All this he had done for his red children, because he loved them. If we had disputes about our hunting ground, they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an evil day came upon us; your forefathers crossed the great waters, and landed on the island. Their numbers were small; they found us friends, and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country, through fear of wicked men, and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat; we took pity on them, and granted their request: and they sat down amongst us. We gave them corn and meat, and, in return, they gave us poison. The white people having now found our country, tidings were sent back and more came amongst us; yet we did not fear them. We tok them to be friends: they called us brothers; we believed them, and gave them a larger seat. At length their numbers so increasd, that they wanted more land: they wanted our country. Our eyes opened, and we became uneasy. Wars took place; Indians were hired to fight against Indians; and many of our people were destroyed. They also distributed liquor amongst us, which has slain thousands.

Brother! Once our seats were large, and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but, not satisfied, you want to force your religion upon us.

Brother! Continue to listen. You say you are sent to instruct us how to worhsip the Great Spirit agreeably to  his mind, and that if we do not take hold of the religion which you teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us; and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of rightly understanding it? We only know what you tell us about it, and having been so often deceived by the white people, how shall we believe what they say?

Brother! You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book?

Brother! We do not understand these things: we are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us: it teaches us to be thankful for all our favours received, to love each other, and to be united: we never quarrel about religion.

Brother! The Great Spirit made us all; but he has made a great difference between his white and his red children: –he has given us different compexions and different customs. To you he has given the arts; tho these he has not opened our eyes. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may he not have given us different religion? The Great Spirit does right: he knows what is best for his children.

Brother! We do not want to destroy your religion, or to take if from you. We only want to enjoy our own.

Brother! We are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbours. We will wait a little, and see what effect your preaching has had upon them. If we find it makes those honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

Brother! You have now heard our answer, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are about to part, we will come and take you by the hand: and we hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey, and return you safe to your friends.”


(See also Item of the Day for November 10, 2006)

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Filed under 1830's, American Indians, Culture, Education, Indians, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

Item of the Day: Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emigration, in the United States and Canada (1833)

Full Title: Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emigration, in the United States and Canada, Made During a Residence There in 1832. By the Rev. Isaac Fidler . . . New-York: Published by J. & J. Harper, no. 82, Cliff-Street; and sold by the principal booksellers throughout the United States, MDCCCXXXIII.


Reasons for abandoning the idea of teaching the Eastern languages in the United States — Day-schools — Insubordination of Pupils — Anecdote of the blind teacher — Of an Irish classical teacher — Sad tale of a village schoolmaster — American insensibility — Farther opinions concerning American schools.


WHEN I had held two or three conversations with a gentleman, to whom I had a letter of introduction from London, with reference to my plan of teaching, particularly the languages of the East; he told me that, in his opinion, my best measure would be to go back to England. “The Americans do not yet want any thing with the East Indies. They are not colonizing other countries, but peopling their own; and have more need of being taught how to handle the axe or spade, than how to read the Hindoostanee. Had you been a strong active hardy ploughman, you might have been worth encouragement, but as it is, I can give you none.” What this gentleman and his family told me, I found to be perfectly correct. The attempt would be useless and absurd to persuade a people, in love with money, and with themselves; doating upon their own perfections, and their superiority love all nations of the earth, in learning, arts, and arms; and despising, or pretending to despise, the English most heartily, that an individual from Great Britain had arrived in their country to teach them languages they do not know. It would be equally useless, to attempt inducing them to pay for information, which they could not at once convert to purposes of gain. A little further inquiry among those, with whom my letters and introductions brought me in contact, soon induced me to abandon the intention of opening a school for instruction in Eastern languages. Dr. Milnor himself thought the attempt could be only futile and followed by disappointment. He imagined, however, that another kind of school might be opened, which would be more likely to succeed. A day-school, with liberal terms, he said, might answer my expectations.

As the same thing had been suggested by other gentlemen of some consideration, it became worthy the attention of one, circumstanced like myself, to investigate more closely the character of day-schools in general, and the mode of conducting them. I soon found, that a common schoolmaster, in that country, is not regarded with much respect; and that education, in such schools, is on a contracted scale. It is true, that high claims to skill are advanced by teachers, and parents are flattered with reports that their sons are in such and such classes, and have studied such and such books.

The hours of attendance in day-schools are about five and a half each day, for four days, and four for the remaining two days of the week. In some seminaries there are sixty or eighty pupils, taught by one, or at the most, by two masters. Such schools, generally close at three in the afternoon. Here insubordination prevails to a degree subversive of all improvement. The pupils are entirely independent of their teacher. No correction, no coercion, no manner of restraint is permitted to be used. It must be seen, from this picture, that general education is at a low ebbe, even in New-York. Indeed, all who know any thing of teaching, will see at once the impossibility of conveying extensive knowledge, in so few hours per day, and upon such a system. Parents also have as little control over their offspring at home, as the master has at school; and the leisure hours of idle boys are, in all countries perhaps alike unproductive of improvement.

Two or three anecdotes were related, to convey to me an idea of American schools. The best teacher whom the United States could ever boast of was a blind athletic old man, who was so well acquainted with the books he taught, as to detect immediately the the slightest incorrectness of his scholars. He was also a great disciplinarian; and, though blind, could from constant practice, inflict the most painful and effective chastisements. From the energetic mental and bodily powers of this teacher, his pupils became distinguished in the colleges and universities of America. They were generally, at their admission into public seminaries, so far in advance of other students, that, from the absence of inducements to steady application, they there, for the first time, contracted habits of idleness. They also became less obedient and subordinate to collegiate regulations than the other scholars, when the hand of correction, of which they formerly had tasted, was no longer extended over them. Thus, a two-fold evil was produced by the discipline and skill of this blind teacher. Since that time, corporal punishment has almost disappeared from American day-schools; and a teacher, who should now have recourse to such means of enforcing instruction, would meet with reprehension from the parents, and perhaps from his scholars. . . .


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Filed under 1830's, Education, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States

Item of the Day: Priestley’s Lectures (1791)

Full Title: Lectures on History, and General Policy: To which is prefixed, An Essay on a Course of Liberal Education for Civil and Active Life. By Joseph Priestley, LL.D. F. R. S. Third Edition. Dublin: Printed for Luke White and P. Byrne. 1791.

An Essay on a Course of Liberal Education, For Civil and Active Life. First Published in 1764.

It seems to be a defect in our present system of public education, that a proper course of studies is not provided for gentlemen who are designed to fill the principal [sic] stations of active life, distinct from those which are adapted to the learned professions. We have hardly any medium between an education for the counting-house, consisting of writing, arithmetic, and merchants-accounts, and a method of institution in the abstract sciences: so that we have nothing liberal, that is worth the attention of gentlemen, whose views neither of these two opposite plans may suit.

Formerly, none but the clergy were thought to have any occasion for learning. It was natural, therefore, that the whole plan of education, from the grammar-school to the finishing at the university, should be calculated for their use. If a few other persons, who were not designed for holy orders, offered themselves for education, it could not be expected that a course of studies should be provided for them only. And indeed, as all those persons who superintended the business of education were of the clerical order, and had themselves been taught nothing but rhetoric, logic, and school-divinity, or civil law, which comprized [sic] the whole compass of human learning for several centuries, it could not be expected that they could entertain larger, or more liberal views of education; and still less, that they should strike out a course of study, for the use of men who were universally thought to have no need of study; and, of whom, few were so sensible of their own wants as to desire any such advantage.

Besides, in those days, the great ends of human society seem to have been but little understood. Men of the greatest rank, fortune, and influence, and who took the lead in the affairs of state had no idea of the great objects of wise and extensive policy; and therefore could never apprehend that any fund of knowledge was required for the most eminent stations in the community. Few persons imagined what were the true forces of wealth, power, and happiness, in a nation. Commerce was little understood, or even attended to; and so slight was the connexion of the different nations of Europe, that general politics were very contracted. And thus, men’s views being narrow, little previous furniture of the mind was requisite to conduct them. 

The consequence of all this was, that the advances which were made to a more perfect and improved state of society were very slow; and the present happier state of things was brought about, rather by an accidental concurrence of circumstances, than by any efforts of human wisdom and foresight.–We see the hand of Divine Providence in those revolutions which have gradually given a happier turn to affair, while men have been the passive and blind instruments of their own felicity.    

But the situation of things at present is vastly different from what it was two or three centuries ago. The objects of human attention are prodigiously multiplied; the connexions of states are extended; a reflection upon our present advantages, and the steps by which we have arrived to the degree of power and happiness we now enjoy, has shewn us the true sources of them; and so thoroughly awakened are all the states of Europe to a sense of their true interests, that we are convinced, the same supine inattention with which affairs were formerly conducted is no longer safe; and that, without superior degrees of wisdom and vigor in political measures, every thing we have hitherto gained will infallible be lost, and be quickly transferred to our more intelligent and vigilant neighbours. In this critical posture of affairs, more lights and superior industry, are requisite, both to ministers of state, and to all persons who have any influence in schemes of public and national advantage; and consequently a different and a better furniture of mind is requisite to be brought into the business of life. 


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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Education, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Dissertations on the English Language (1789)

Full Title: Dissertations on the English Language: with Notes, Historical and Critical. To which is added, by way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, with Dr. Franklin’s Arguments on that Subject. By Noah Webster, Jun. Esquire. Boston: Printed for the author, by Isaiah Thomas and Company, MDCCLXXXIX.










IT has been observed by all writers on the English language, that the orthography or spelling of words is very irregular; the same letters often representing different sounds, and the same sounds often expressed by different letters. For this irregularity, two principal causes may be assigned:

1. THE changes to which the pronunciation of a language is liable, from the progress of science and civilization.

2. THE mixture of different languages, occasioned by revolutions in England, or by a predilection of the learned, for words of foreign growth and ancient origin. To the first cause, may be ascribed the difference between the spelling and pronunciation of Saxon words. The northern nations of Europe originally spoke much in gutturals. This is evident from the number of aspirates and guttural letters, which still remain in the orthography of words derived from those nations; and from the modern pronunciation of the collateral branches of the Teutonic, the Dutch, Scotch and German. Thus k before n was once pronounced; as in knave, know; the gh in might, though, daughter, and other similar words; the g in reign, feign, &c.

BUT as savages proceed in forming languages, they lose the guttural sounds, in some measure, and adopt the use of labials, and the more open vowels. The ease of speaking facilitates this progress, and the pronunciation of words is softened, in proportion to a national refinement of manners. This will account for the difference between the ancient and modern languages of France, Spain and Italy; and for the difference between the soft pronunciation of the present languages of those countries, and the more harsh and guttural pronunciation of the northern inhabitants of Europe.

IN this progress, the English have lost the sounds of most of the guttural letters. The k before k in know, the g in reign, and in many other words, are become mute in practice; and the gh is softened into the sound of f, as in laugh, or is silent, as in brought. . . .

BUT such is the state of our language. The pronunciation of the words which are strictly English, has been gradually changing for ages, and since the revival of science in Europe, the langage has received a vast accession of words from other languages, many of which retain an orthography very ill suited to exhibit the true pronunciation.

THE question now occurs; ought the Americans to retain these faults which produce innumerable inconveniencies [sic] in the acquisition and use of the language, or ought they at once to reform these abuses, and introduce order and regularity into the orthography of the AMERICAN TONGUE?

Let us consider this subject with some attention.

SEVERAL attempts were formerly made in England to rectify the orthography of the language. But I apprehend their schemes failed of success, rather on account of their intrinsic difficulties, than on account of any necessary impracticability [sic] of a reform. It was proposed, in most of these schemes, not merely to throw out superfluous and silent letters, but to introduce a number of new characters. Any attempt on such a plan must undoubtedly prove unsuccessful. It is not to be expected that an orthography, perfectly regular and simple, such as would be formed by a “Synod of Grammarians on principles of science,” will ever be substituted for that confused mode of spelling which is now established. But is is apprehended that great improvements may be made, and an orthography almost regular, or such as shall obviate most of the present difficulties which occur in learning our language, may be introduced and established with little trouble and opposition.

The principal alterations, necessary to render our orthography sufficiently regular and easy, are these:

1. THE omission of all superfluous or silent letters; as a in bread. Thus bread, head, give, breast, built, meant, realm, friend, would be spelt, bred, hed, giv, brest, bilt, ment, relm, frend. Would this alteration produce any inconvenience, any embarrassment or expense? By no means. On the other hand, it would lessent he trouble of writing, and much more, of learning the language; it would reduce the true pronunciation to a certainty; and while it would assist foreigners and our own children in acquiring the language, it would render the pronunciation uniform, in different parts of the country, and almost prevent the possibility of change.

2. A SUBSTITUTE of a character that has a certain definite sound, for one that is more vague and indeterminate. Thus putting ee instead of ea or ie, the words mean, near, speak, grieve, zeal, would become meen, neer, speek, greev, zeel. This alteration could not occasion a moments trouble; at the same time it would prevent a doubt respecting the pronunciation; whereas the ea and the ie having different sounds, may give a learner much difficulty. Thus greef should be substituted for grief; kee for key; beleev for believe; laf for laugh; dawter for daughter; plow for plough; tuf for tough; proov for prove; blud for blood; and draft for draught. In this manner ch in Greek derivatives, should be changed to k; for the English ch has a soft sound, as in cherish; but k always a hard sound. Therefore character, chorus, cholic, architecture, should be written karacter, kours, kolic, arkitecture; and were they thus written, no person could mistake their true pronunciation. . . .

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Filed under 1780's, Education, Grammar, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: Sketches of the History of Dartmouth College (c. 1815)

Full Title: Sketches of the History of Dartmouth College and Moors’ Charity School, with a Particular Account of Some Late Remarkable Proceedings of the Board of Trusties, from the Year 1779 to the Year 1815. [n.i.]




Proper informations, and satisfactory evidences being given to the Hon. Society in Scotland, by their respectable Board of Commissioners established at Boston, its incumbrances were removed, and the school, at length, brought into more extensive operation.

In the year 1799, Dr. Wheelock employed the Rev. Lyman Potter on a mission to the Cherokees, 1100 miles to the south. He mingled with these wild natives–opened to them the book of life; and they appeared to receive the messages of divine grace with gladness. Soon after, communication was opened with the tribes of the Six Nations in Upper Canada. Joseph Brant, so memorable in the Indian annals for his improvements and exploits, sent two sons to be members of the same School, in which he had been educated, with letters of grateful remembrance of the founder, as, to whom, under God, he owed his elevation above the savage. One of them, more promising, died not long after his return and many hopes were buried with him. In 1802 Rev. Mr. Merrill, then preceptor of the School, visited the tribes in Lower Canada. The chiefs of St. Francis gratefully rejoiced to place their children in the path of instruction; and several of them were received. Three in general, and at times four, from the St. Francis, Caghnewaga and Algonquin tribes, have been maintained annually at the school till the last year. By obstruction of intercourse and interruptions by the war, there is only one at present; others are expected so soon as peaceful communications are opened.

All these have been supported at the school with every necessary, by the interest of its fund in the care of the society, through the medium of their commissioners, at the rate of about one hundred and thirty dollars per annum for each. Generally, they were regular and attentive, their improvements useful; and since their return, their conduct becoming so far as we have heard. . . .

A propension to improvement is natural to the human race, and to be discerned in nations and individuals. It is checked by  the incontroulable power of the elements, the occasional circumstances of living, and the oppression of despotism. The first cause operates on the Samoiede’s, the inhabitants of Lapland and Greenland: the second on uncultivated nations, in temperate climates, which may advance civilization, as the ancient Germans, Gauls and Britons; or on the lower order of people, in moderate goverments, confined to hard labor and want: the third on all who wear the servile yoke of despotic power, as in the empires of Turkey and Persia.

But some account of the American savages, as an anomaly. They consider the measures, and the zeal of two hundred years, to draw them to christianity and civilization–they note of the attempts, many abortive, and none answerable to expectation–and hence conclude, that they are either not susceptible of improvement, or consigned by the mystery of divine providence to ignorance and idolatry. The former opinion erases them from the list of our species, the latter is vitated by the pride of human exertions. The experiments, under unfavourable circumstances, have been imperfect, and the induction from them erroneous.

 1. The strongest attachment of man is to himself and his own opinions. His manners, deeply rooted in early life, and strengthened by age, are obstinate against the attacks of foreign influence; but yield to familiarized examples in the circle of his social intercourse. Conquerors never raised nations by the point of the sword, from ignorance to knowledge, from their cradle to manhood in improvements; but men, who sprang up in the bosom of their own societies, who were one with the people, and possessed talents and qualities which as the president de Goguet justly remarks, “gained the public esteem and confidence.” Such were the patriots, who, as Osiris and Phoroneus and Cecrops and Numa, by their examples, instructions and laws, accorded by their free countrymen, gradually improved their manners, and led them from barbarism towards refinement. Thus it was with the nations of Europe, whose early histories have been best preserved–and, turning to America, we may conclude it was so when they exchanged their wig-wams for cities in the empire of Mango-Capac; and the same in the advancememt of social order among the Mexicans. The Spaniards undertook by conquest and violence, and reduced the natives to servitude; but could never improve their manners.

In North-America, the English and French emigrators, actuated by milder motives, made use of forcible or accommodating measures, according to circumstances, in forming their settlements. Still, as the Spaniards, they have held the natives in the same contempt, that is natural for the civilized to hold the savage–they have treated them, as an alien and inferior race, never mingling in the interchanges of the social state, needful to inspire confidence, and familiarize, and draw the mind to descern, and taste the pleasures of cultivation. The colonial and state governments have beheld with a despotic eye the tribes within their limits: the laws have provided for them some protection, without affording the rights of citizens. If the friends of the Redeemer, actuated by the benign precepts of the gospel, have, at times, ardently engaged to promote instruction, and reform, among these western pagans, the work, for the most part, was attempted by solitary missionaries, occasional or transient residents, strangers to the manners of those, who were equally estranged to them and their cause. Far different were the undertakings of the apostolic age, which were sustained and prospered by miracles, and wonders, supernatural aids, not to be expected in after times. And far different in the fifth and following centuries, when to extend christianity the pious adventurers were more zealous and persevering, unappalled by perils and wo; when the political influences of the eastern and western Roman empires, and various orders of men. enlisted the clergy to promote the cause.

. . .

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Filed under American Indians, Canada, Early Republic, Education, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Castiglione’s The Courtier (1727)

Full Title:

Il Cortegiano, or The Courtier: Written by Conte Baldassar Castiglione. And a New Version of the same into English. Together with Several of his Celebrated Pieces, as well Latin as Italian, both in Prose and Verse. To which is prefix’d, The Life of the Author. By A.P. Castiglione, of the same Family. Printed in London by W. Bowyer, 1727.

[The text appears in Italian and English in facing columns.]

From Book II.

I have often, not without Wonder, reflected, whence an Error could arise; which one would be apt to think natural to old Men, since found in so many; viz. that they almost universally applaud the Times past, and blame the present; censuring those Modes and Practices with which their younger Years were not acquainted; lamenting the Decline of Virtue, the Degeneracy of Age, the Change of all Things from bad to worse. Now it seems a most unreasonable thing, and what we cannot but be surprized at, that an advanced Age, such as from its great Experience is wont in other Matters to pass the truest, the most exact Judgment, should in this so err, as not to perceive, that if the World daily grew worse, if the Parents were generally better than their Children, we should long e’er this have arrived at the highest Pitch of Vice, at a State, a worse than which would be impossible. Yet this Error we find, not only in our own, but also in ancient Times, prevailing over Persons of the Age we speak of: As is evident from many of the ancient Writers, and particularly the Comick, who give us a better idea of humane Life than any other.

The Reason of this wrong Judgment I take to be, that our Years, as they pass, carry away with ’em many of the Comforts of Life, and particularly occasion such a Decrease of the Animal Spirits, as effects a Change in our Constitution, and renders all those Organs weak through which the Soul exerts its Operations. Whence the sweet Flowers of Delight fall at that time of Life from our Hearts, as Leaves fall from the Trees in Autumn, and instead of gay and chearful Thoughts, a Train of dark and melancholy Apprehensions possess us, our Minds discovering a Weakness great as what we find in our Bodies: All that remains of our past Pleasures, is the Remembrance of the dear Time when they were enjoy’d, which seems such to us, as if Heaven, Earth, and universal Nature, had then put on their best Array, and afforded us the Entertainment of a delightful Garden, adorn’d with all the Beauties of the Spring. Hence perhaps it were to be wish’d, that in that cold Season, when the Sun of our Life is in his Decline, we might lose at once the Sense of Pleasure and its Remembrance, and that we knew Themistocles’s Art of Forgetfulness; because the Senses of our Bodies are so easily deceived, as to mislead the Determinations of the Mind.

I cannot therefore but regard old Men as in the same Condition with them, who fixing, as they sail out of a Haven, their Eyes of the Shore, think it to move, and the Vessel they are in, to stand still: When on the contrary, the Shore, like the Time, keeps its settled State, and we in the Bark of Mortality, are each after the other carried with a brisk Gale through that stormy Sea which devours all things, nor find it ever in our Power to regain the Haven; but always toss’d by the Fury of the Winds, have our Vessel dash’d at length against a Rock and split.

That the Minds then of the aged know not a Relish of many Pleasures, is, becasue they are not proper Subjects for them. As it is with one in a Fever, to whose vitiated Palate the most delicate Wines appear insipid and disagreeable: The very same it is with those in the Decline of Life; they feel an Inclination for Pleasure, yet whatever they pursue they find tastless, flat, and quite different from what they had formerly enjoy’d, though the Nature of the Pleasure continue still the same. Disappointed thus, they grieve and lay the Fault on the Times, as if they were grown worse; never perceiving the Change to be in themselves, not the Times. On the other hand too, reflecting on the Pleasures pass’d, they reflect likewise on the Time when they enjoy’d them, and commend it as seeming to carry with it a Taste of what they felt in it when present. The Truth is, we ever entertain an Aversion to all those things which have accompanied our Uneasynesses, as we do an Affection to whatever has attended our Joys.

Hence it is that a Lover often views with Pleasure a Casement when shut, and this, because he has at some time seen his Mistress there; so likewise a Ring, a Letter, a Garden, any Place or Thing that has been a Witness to his Happiness. On the contrary, an Apartment deck’d with all that can make it gay and delightful, shall be the Abhorrence of him who has suffer’d Imprisonment, or any other Uneasiness in it. I my self have known some that could never drink out of any thing which bore a Resemblance to what they had formerly taken Physick in. For as the Casement, Ring, or Letter, recall’d to the one the dear Remembrance of what had so much delighted him, seeming a part of what had given him Pleasure: So the very Place or Vessel are regarded by the other, as bringing with them the Imprisonment or Disease. On a Foundation like this, I believe it is, that the advanced in Age applaud the past Time, and inveigh against the present.

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Filed under 1720's, Culture, Education, Modern Language Translations, Oratory, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Webster’s Essays and Fugitiv Writings (1790)

Full Title:

A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings. On Moral, Historical, Political, and Literary Subjects. By Noah Webster, Jun. Attorney at Law. Printed at Boston for the Author, by I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews, 1790.

On the Education of Females

In a system of education, that should embrace every part of the community, the female sex claim no inconsiderable share of our attention.

The women in America (to their honor it is mentioned) are not generally above the care of educating their own children. Their own education should therefore enable them to implant in the tender mind, such sentiments of virtue, propriety and dignity, as are suited to the freedom of our governments. Children should be treated as children, but as children that are, in a future time, to be men and women. By treating them as if they were always to remain children, we very often see their childishness adhere to them, even in middle life. The silly language called baby talk, in which most persons are initiated in infancy, often breaks out in discourse, at the age of forty, and makes a man appear very ridiculous. In the same manner, vulgar, obscene and illiberal ideas, imbibed in a nursery or a kitchen, often give a tincture to the conduct through life. In order to prevent every evil bias, the ladies, whose province it is to direct the inclinations of children on their first appearance, and to choose their nurses, should be possessed, not only of amiable manners, but of just sentiments and enlarged understandings.

But the influence of women in forming the dispositions of youth, is not the sole reason why their education should be particularly guarded; their influence in controling the manners of a nation, is another powerful reason. Women, once abandoned, may be instrumental in corrupting society; but such is the delicacy of the sex, and such the restraints which custom imposes upon them, that they are generally the last to be corrupted. There are innumerable instances of men, who have been restrained from a vicious life, and even of very abandonded [sic] men, who have been reclaimed, by their attachment to ladies of virtue. A fondness for the company and conversation of ladies of character, may be considered as a young mans’ best security against the attractives of a dissipated life. A man who is attached to good company, seldom frequents that which is bad. For this reason, society requires taht females should be well educated, and extend their influence as far as possible over the other sex.

But a distinction is to be made between a good education, and a showy one; for an education, merely superficial, is a proof of corruption of taste, and has a mischievous influence on manners. The education of females, like that of males, should be adapted to the principles of the government, and correspond with the stage of society. Education in Paris differs from that in Petersburg, and the education of females in London or Paris should not be a model for the Americans to copy.

In all nations a good education, is that which renders the ladies correct in their manners, respectable in their families, and agreeable in society. That education is always wrong, which raises a woman above the duties of her station.

In America, female education should have for its object what is useful. Young ladies should be taught to speak and write their own language with purity and elegance; an article in which they are often deficient. The French langauge is not necessary for ladies. In some cases it is convenient, but, in general, it may be considered as an article of luxury. As an accomplishment, it may be studied by those whose attention is not employed about more important concerns.

Some knowlege [sic] of arithmetic is necessary for every lady. Geography should never be neglected. Belles Letters learning seems to correspond with the dispositions of most females. A taste for Poetry and fine writing should be cultivated; for we expect the most delicate sentiments from the pens of that sex, which is possessed of the finest feelings.

A course of reading can hardly be prescribed for all ladies. But it should be remarked, that this sex cannot be too well acquainted with the writers upon human life and manners. The Spectator should fill the first place in every lady’s library. Other volumes of periodical papers, tho inferior to the Spectator, should be read; and some of the best histories.

With respect to novels, so much admired by the young, and so generally condemned by the old, what shall I say? Perhaps it may be said with truth, that some of them are useful, many of them pernicious, and most of them trifling. A hundred volumes of modern novels may be read, without acquiring a new idea. Some of them contain entertaining stories, and where the descriptions are drawn from nature, and from characters and events in themselves innocent, the perusal of them may be harmless.

Were novels written with a view to exhibit only one side of human nature, to paint the social virtues, the world would condemn them as defective: But I should think them more perfect. Young people, especially females, should not see the vicious part of mankind. At best novels may be considered as the toys of young; the rattle boxes of sixteen. The mechanic gets his pence for his toys, and the novel writer, for his books; and it would be happy for society, if the latter were in all cases as innocent play things as the former.

In the large towns in America, music, drawing and dancing, constitute a part of female education. They, however, hold a subordinate rank; for my fair friends will pardon me, when I declare, that no man ever marries a woman for her performance on a harpsichord, or her figure in a minuet. However ambitious a woman may be to command admiration abroad, her real merit is known only at home. Admiration is useless, when it is not supported by domestic worth. But real honor and permanent esteem, are always secured by those who preside over their own families with dignity.

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Filed under 1790's, Education, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Women

Item of the Day: Webster’s History of Animals (1812)

Full Title:

History of Animals; Designed for the Instruction and Amusement of Persons of Both Sexes by Noah Webster, Jun. Esq. Printed in New-Haven by Walter & Steele, 1812.

Excerpt from “MAN”

16. Of the human race. Among the countless species of animals which inhabit the globe; Man holds the first rank. He is not indeed the largest or strongest animal; but he is of the most beautiful form, and indued with a superior degree of intellectual power, which enables him to subdue other animals, and make them subservient to his necessities, his convenience, or his luxury. But what especially distinguishes man from other animals, is his rational soul, which is capable of continual improvement and high intellectual enjoyment in this life, and is destined to survive the body, and enjoy immortality.

17. Infancy of man. Notwithstanding the dignity of man compared with other animals, he is, at his birth, the most helpless and dependent. When first born, the infant can only move its feeble limbs, and manifest its wants by the cries of distress. Unable to move its body, it depends on its nurse for support and protection; and its utmost efforts towards procuring food consist in swallowing the milk which is poured into its mouth, or in feebly drawing it with its lips from the breast.

18. Progress of infancy. For several month after its birth, the infant continues most of the time in sleep. When awake, its eyes are fixed, or moved without design; and they appear glossy or destitute of lustre. Light indeed atracts the eye of an infant, in a short time after its birth; but rarely does it exhibit a smile, or shed a tear, until after forty days. Its hands are moved, but without design, or direction to a particular object. Its bones are soft, and its joints feeble. In this manner the infant continues dependent on the fostering care of its mother and nurse, till the appearance of teeth indicates the time when it may quit the breast, and be fed with more substantial food.

19. Childhood. The teeth usually begin to appear between the ages of four and eight months. Strong, healthful children begin to walk at the age of nine or ten months; but more generally, children cannot walk till twelve or fourteen months old. From the time of weaning, till three years old, the child is exposed to many dangers from accidents, and especially from the diseases incident to dentition, or teething. Until this period, and for several years after, the child’s life is exposed to hazard from certain diseases which are epidemic, at irregular periods, in all countries; by which means one third of the children perish before they are three years old.

20. Propensity of children to action. No sooner is the child able to walk, than he manifests an inclination to be continually in motion. He walks from place to place to find objects of amusement; but soon dissatisfied with one toy, he throws it away, and seeks another. As he advances in strength, he begins to run and to play with more vigor, and to seek for companions as lively, as playful and noisy as himself. This propensity to action, however troublesome to his parents, is of immense consequence to the child; it is intended, in the wise economy of providence, to prompt the feeble child to exert his muscles and limbs, for the purpose of giving them strength and firmness; invigorating the body, and fitting it to sustain the necessary toils and labor of his future life.

21. Puberty. From infancy, the growth of the body is tolerably regular and uniform, till the age of thirteen or fourteen years. At this time, the child passes rapidly to a state of manhood; and often the size of his body is enlarged, in disproportion to its strength; and young persons of both sexes are peculiarly liable to disease, especially to affections of the lungs. By the age of twenty years, but sometimes a little earlier or later, the body has usually acquired its full size, proportion, strength and beauty. Females however generally arrive to their full size at an earlier age than males.

22. Progress of man to old age. After the body has arrived to its full size and strength, it continues many years without any great change, except that it sometimes gains an inconvenient load of fat. The state of full strength continues often to the age of forty or forty-five years; but, before this period, the body usually begins to lose in activity. At the age of fifty, or somewhat earlier, man begins to be sensible of a decay, not only of activity, but of strength; and about this period, his eye-sight begins to fail. The decay is gradual—the bones become hard; the cartilages (or gristle) become more rigid, rendering the motion of the joints more difficult; and other parts of the body undergo a similar alteration. The flesh falls away, and leaves the skin to contract into wrinkles; the hair often becomes white; all the functions of the body become more slow and languid; until the blood ceases to circulate, and man sinks into his native dust.

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Filed under 1810's, Education, Medicine, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt