ePub 版

science, technically so denominated, it consisted chiefly of history in its several departments; biography, travels, public speeches by distinguished orators, sermons included, ably written letters, and poetry. Though novels, romances, and other works of moral fiction, were not entirely neglected by me, they were read only in company, attended by comments and illustrative remarks, with a view to afford by them agreeable entertainment, and such instruction as they might be calculated to impart, and never during my hours of solitude and labor in my study. Nor did I fail to devote some portion of my time to a study in which, from my boyhood, I have peculiarly delighted-that of the philosophy or theology of nature, under a strict comparison of it with the theology of rev. elation, two branches of knowledge usually called "natural and revealed religion." I need hardly observe, that such exercises contributed not a little to expand and enrich, mature and strengthen my mind, and thus prepare it the more effectually for the study of whatever professional calling I might subsequently adopt. For it is a mockery to call divinity, law, and medicine "learned professions," unless those who profess and pursue them, are learned men. And I blush for the professional degradation of my country, when I feel myself compelled to add, that such is far from being the case in the United States, under our present disgraceful neglect of letters.

At that era of my life I also commenced, in a more special and pointed manner, the study of human nature; not by the perusal of printed books, but of the Book of Nature. I mean, by observation on people around me. My first object was, to attain such a knowledge of human nature as might qualify me, in all cases, to hold intercourse with individuals, and society at large, in such a way, and on such terms, as might be most becoming, safe, and useful, as well toward others, as in relation to myself. Nor did I confine my studies to the acquisition of the knowledge of man, on a very limited scale. I extended them into that branch of natural history, denominated Authropology, embracing the whole history and philosophy of man.

Having never designed to officiate as an instructor of youth for more than a few years, the time had now arrived when it was incumbent on me to make choice of a profession for life. I had been educated expressly for the Presbyterian pulpit-my family having been, through many generations, strict adherents to the Presbyterian sect, and most of them very sternly wedded to its distinctive tenets, principles of government, and form of worship. But, very early in life, and for sundry reasons satisfactory to myself, I had firmly resolved, and made my resolution known to those most deeply interested in it, not to devote myself to that calling; but after much vacillation, out of deference to my father's objections to the legal and military professions, I was induced to relinquish that intention also, and to select for my destiny the profession of medicine.

Although not strictly within the scope of this article, we add a few extracts relating to his medical studies.

In August, 1792, young Caldwell repaired to Philadelphia, to pursue his studies under the auspices of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania. He commenced with a determination to succeed and distinguish himself in them, to which he sternly and diligently adhered. Soon after the close of the first

tend with an irritability which is then the necessary and useful attendant of their fragile structure and helpless condition; but which, with a little neglect in childhood, will grow into an uncontrollable bad temper in mature life. The cries of an infant are the language of nature, given to supply the place of the yet impossible words, in communicating its wants to its protectors. Its first cries are from pain of some kind. The moment it is relieved they cease. When the cries for assistance are disregarded or rudely repressed, the first feeling of anger arises at the disappointment of the expected relief. The cries are increased with more bitterness and intensity, until they are perhaps hushed by terror or physical exhaustion. If the first attendant of an infant be herself illtempered, she can hardly fail to make the child so. Her changeful moods, her fondling and harshness, will perpetually disappoint his expectations. The occasions of ill-humor will be frequent; and his ill-humor, being troublesome, is likely to excite hers. Thus his outbreaks will continually call down the very treatment most likely to confirm them into habits. The proper management of the temper requires that the child should be surrounded from the first by a steady and enlightened affection. The first movements of its irritable nature require all the softness and patience of a mother. The occasions of irritability should, as far as possible, be foreseen and avoided. Clothes too tight, or not sufficiently warm; unnecessary dressings and undressings-these, and a hundred apparent trifles, which might be prevented, are to the child pain, and nothing more. When pain does exist from any cause, it should be at once attended to, promptly relieved, and the irritation set at rest, by affectionate soothing. Every instant that irritation, arising from a real cause, is suffered to continue, tends to fix it in the character. This, however, is never likely where there is affection acting upon principle. The first gleams of thought in the child will check his disposition to be angry with those who love him. As he grows, the operation of a uniform system of treatment will teach him to regulate his expectations of the future. Indulgence, however, has its peculiar danger. When the cries of the infant procure relief from pain, crying becomes associated with the satisfaction of its wants, and is resorted to when there is no pain, for the gratification of some whim, such as to ill-managed children are occurring incessantly. If this be given way to, the association is confirmed, and crying becomes the regular mode of obtaining what is desired. It is found to be an instrument of power, and it is used tyrannically. The mother and the household are subjected to no easy yoke. In this manner, unwise affection is as likely to spoil the temper as capricious severity. We must avoid both. A practiced eye can distinguish between the cry which springs from real pain, and the mechanical imitation of it which is used for the gratification of a whim. Pain should be affectionately attended to; but a fit of crying for a plaything or a sweetmeat should never obtain the least satisfaction. If it is found useless, it will soon be discontinued, and cheerfulness and good humor, as more effectual means of gratification, will become the habits. Before we reach this point, we may have to witness some bursts of temper, and no little violent sobbing; but these will rapidly disappear. We need not fear the growth of unkind feelings in the child's mind from such treatment. He will soon feel the real affection which dictates it, and which he feels in so many other ways. His sagacity, s acute in all that relates to himself, will discover that there is a real anxiety to make him happy. This will be certain to call forth the best feelings of his na


ture; and the fixed system by which he finds himself governed, assuming the character of indispensable necessity, will prevent those innumerable contests and uncertainties which try the temper of children beyond their power of control. Closely connected with the foregoing is the working of another principle, which shows itself at a very early period. Almost as early as we can examine, we trace a remarkable difference between children in respect to firmness or flexibility of character. Some are soft and impressible as wax; others evince a stubborn tenacity of their ideas and purposes, which the whole force of authority often contends with in vain. Ordinary people, disliking trouble, think the former are exactly what children ought to be, and augur the happiest results from their pliancy and docility. The others, who are often the choice spirits of the earth, the men of original character, with force of will to think and do, are set down as unmanageable, wayward, good for no useful purpose, and they labor under the stigma, until circumstances bring them to the work they are destined for, when the guardians of their infancy tardily and with difficulty recognize their powers. Many a defect and infirmity do such men carry to their high functions, which might have been prevented by a little more knowledge of human character in their instructors. Many a distortion of thought or feeling remains through life, from the injudicious opposition, reproof, or contempt, to which their misunderstood peculiarities exposed them.

The child, however, must learn obedience. The mature man, in the vigor of body and intellect, must know how to obey; for the feeble frame and imperfect intelligence of the child, it is absolutely indispensable. We must begin from the first. Real affection, working through an enlightened judgment, will secure implicit obedience, and nothing else will. A child soon learns to submit to inevitable necessity. He may quarrel with the stone or the tree which impedes his progress, but soon gives over when he finds that his cries or his struggles make no change. Our resistance to him when he is wrong should bear the appearance of the same inevitable necessity. It, and indeed our whole conduct, should be as uniform and consistent as the laws of nature, or as near to this as our imperfect natures can carry it. No tears, or cries, or struggles, should move us. Without the slightest variation of temper, we must gently but inflexibly refuse to do anything for the gratification of a wrong impulse. Yielding to urgency in a single instance may overthrow the labor of months in the formation of the habit. Authority exercised in this manner will soon be submitted to without a murmur. The kind caress upon his submission, and the good consequences of obedience to the child's own happiness, which he can often perceive, will soon make ready submission a pleasanter course than obstinate entreaty, or sullenness at refusal.

Besides learning to submit quietly to our refusal of improper gratifications, he must acquire the habit of obedience to positive commands. With many children obedience will be a matter of course, or will become so with little trouble; with one of firmer texture we must proceed cautiously. We should begin, as Miss Edgeworth recommends,* with making him absolutely do what we desire, which must, therefore, be something that we can make him do, such as taking him to bed at a particular hour. When this has become, by frequent repetition, fixed on his mind as a thing which must be done, we may ingraft upon the habit so formed the additional one of obedience to command. In all this, the look and

* See Practical Education, Vol. I., p. 220. 8vo. 1811.

tone of true affection will have infinite power. Obedience will seem to the child a necessary result of his affection for his teacher; and so it will be a joyful, eager obedience, springing from the heart and a blessing to both.

To make the obedience most complete and most healthful for the moral nature of the child, our commands, our whole system of conduct, should, if possible, present, as before stated, the uniformity and consistency of the laws of nature. There should be no bursts of extravagant kindness and fondling, to be followed by fits of cold neglect; no overweening attention to the little prattler to-day, and ill-tempered rejection of his playfulness to-morrow; no promises made incautiously at night, to be laughed away or reluctantly performed in the morn ing; no menaces uttered in passion and forgotten when the gust has blown over. Promises should be performed in the spirit and to the letter; threats, if we use them, executed with absolute exactness. There should be a total absence of caprice or variableness. The child should know what he has to expect-what consequences will be sure to follow certain acts. This smooth, fixed, harmonious revolution of the machinery about him, will prevent the thought of disobedience, and, at the same time, the obedience which it will tend to form will not break his spirit, or impair his energy. Capricious, varying commands, unexpected thwartings, bring about those unhappy contests with positive children, by which they are either fixed in a sullen, incurable doggedness, or forcibly reduced to submission, at the cost of that invaluable tenacity of purpose, which is the prime element of success, either in action or speculation. It is a miserable mistake that we must "break a child's will," as the first step in education. On the contrary, we should, by all means, strengthen it, but habituate it to tho control of the reason and the higher feelings. If, by a severe and capricious treatment, we could succeed in crushing that original tendency in the mind to abide by its purposes, to encounter opposition for their sake, and to cling to them in proportion to the force brought against them, what would remain? Of what avail would it be that a mind thus emasculated was molded into the form of virtue—that it had a knowledge of science-a love of justice-a sense of harmony and beauty? What would be the security for the continuance of such qualities, rooted in mere obedience and perhaps imitation, where the center of nourishment and self-support was gone? Why should not external influence, like that which gave them life, destroy them? What likelihood of their withstanding the gusts of opinion sweeping hither and thither over the face of society? What possible destiny, beyond mere passive contemplation, could they fulfill in a world of earnest and vigorous action? No. We can not spare a jot of that self-sustaining, self-impelling power from the mind. In the great benefactors of our race it has shone most conspicuously, and even in ordinary life it is an essential condition of a steady and prosperous career.

We must endeavor, then, to secure obedience through the affections, and by a treatment from the first so uniform, that it will enter into and modify the child's ideas and expectations, as they are modified by the regular succession of cause and effect in the natural world. Further, by giving perfect freedom when it is possible, and by encouraging children to work out and act upon their own conclusions, we must cultivate self-reliance and decision of character. This, like all superior qualities, is not to be, as it were, stuck into the mind from without, but unfolded from the working of its own faculties. The noble plant must acquire its beauty and its strength from those internal forces which God

has given. The skillful cultivator takes for his guidance the hints of Nature herself-now aiding her efforts by a sprinkling of encouragement, and now by the removal of some external obstacle which impedes her development.

Another original impulse necessary for the preservation of the human being, but without careful management a fruitful source of unhappiness, is fear or terror. What has once given a child pain is dreaded; the idea of the pain is called up by the sight of the object. New and unusual objects are frequently causes of pain to children; and any new or unusual object becomes invested with associations of pain, and produces terror. This feeling is so easily excited in children, and it so conveniently puts to flight previous feelings of petulance, or of anxiety to have something inconvenient, that it is almost constantly abused. It is the regular resource of laziness, ignorance, and ill-temper, in attendants. The child is terrified into doing, or terrified from doing, whatever his nurse, or instructor, feel inconvenient or otherwise. According to the general law, the feeling thus frequently exercised is strengthened, and the mind, of course, permanently enfeebled. A thousand false and fantastic terrors are thus implanted in the minds of children,-dark clouds that hover continually in view through life, and darken the sunshine of many otherwise happy hours. The energy of the mind is seriously impaired. The imagination, exercised by frequent fears, is perpetually suggesting dangers in any deviation from the beaten track of habit, and even in the most ordinary circumstances. The free, courageous spirit of investigation, the great spring of intellectual advancement, is weakened, if not altogether destroyed.

The education of this impulse is mismanaged in various ways-by an absolutely reckless and wanton excitement of the feeling in children-by a capricious severity, which, by its uncertainty, keeps terror almost constantly alive, and uses it as an instrument to effect its purposes-by an extreme and morbid caution, which fears to let children do any thing for themselves, lest they may receive some trifling hurt or damage; clothes the commonest acts and objects with terrors; and, by stopping examination, hinders the acquirement of the knowledge and habits which are a better safeguard against danger than a thousand anxious parents or instructors.

With respect to the first-the excitement of children's fears. without a distinct purpose, or for amusement-it scarcely deserves remark. It is so gratuitously mischievous, such a wicked sporting with the lifelong happiness of human beings, that no mind of the least sense or good feeling can hesitate to condemn it. With respect to the second-the management of children by their terrors, whether by the nurse with her threats of monsters and ghosts, or the instructor with his corporeal and other punishments-it has already been seen how obedience may be attained in a better way. It is enough here to remark, that an education of terror, although it may partially succeed in causing intellectual acquirement, must be morally destructive. It will instill cunning and falsehood, the vices of the slave. Its most favorable results will be the production of men, clever, smooth, obedient instruments, capable, when the pressure of authority is removed, of good or evil, but with a considerable bias towards the latter. In an atmosphere of terror the nobler impulses wither and die, or if by unusual strength they survive, their growth will catch some distortion from the blighting process they have gone through.

The remaining cause by which children are made feeble and cowardly, is the

« 上一頁繼續 »