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be covered with the mantle of charity, and that the eye of candour and benevolence alone be directed towards our youthful, our humble endeavours.
The question, “Whether the benefits of a liberal education should be extended to the female sex ?” has been ably discussed by my worthy predecessors. It only remains for me to make some remarks on the general scope of their reasoning, and to see, by close examination, in whose favour the decision is to be given.
Let every possible degree of praise then, in the first place, be ascribed to the gentleman affirmant, who has so nobly, so eloquently defended the cause of female education against the assaults of its enemies, and who has endeavoured to place the female character on that exalted station to which it is deservedly entitled. Animated by the enthusiasm of the subject, he has seemed to soar into the regions of imagination : for, alas ! I fear so exalted an estimate of female excellence as his, will scarcely be realized in this lower world. Let none feel inclined to smile at the honest warmth he has displayed, for it speaks his heart deeply interested in the success of the cause he is advocating. Doubl. less, like another Cælebs, he too is in search of his Lucilla; and let no fair one present, dare to hope for his favour, unless she is conscious she possesses all those qualifications which he has thought fit to enumerate in the following emphatic language of the poet
Hear, ye fair daughters of this happy land,
The affirmant begins the discussion of the question by a consideration of the dignity and importance of education as a general
principle, and without reference to either sex in particular. The truth of this proposition, which he has taken considerable pains to enforce, is universally admitted, and therefore needs no comment. He next proceeds to answer the objection, that “wonien are na. turally incapable of obtaining a liberal education,”—an objection which, as the opponent very justly observes, no one in their sober senses ever thought of advancing. To establish his proposition, however, the affirmant brings forward several examples of illustrious women; and it must be confessed, that he has been most miserably unfortunate in his selection. Sappho and Madam Dacier appear first on his list; the one a mad poetess, who drowned herself to get rid of her misfortunes; the other as notorious and disgusting a pedant as ever made pretensions to literature. Next advance the worthy Queens, Elizabeth and Anne, and the Tzarina Catherine, three very renowned personages, it must be confessed, as queens, but not exceedingly remarkable for depth or originality of thought, or for the great extent of their acquirements. How much more nobly would his catalogue bave been swelled, how much more forcible would his argument bave appeared to us, had he substituted in the place of these, the names of a Smith, a Carter, a Hamilton or a More! These are names which will be pronounced with reverence, when those of Sappho, of Elizabeth, of Catharine, shall have perished in the ocean of oblivion. These are names which will always be honoured by every lover of virtue ; every enthusiast of female excellence ; every admirer of genuine and unaffected piety; and their writings will stand for ages as monuments of the female mind, emerg. ing from the obscurity with which ignorance and prejudice had surrounded it, and displaying to the world illustrious examples of the benefit, the exalted benefit of female education. To such women as these we look with admiration. They have dared to stem the torrent of prejudice; to burst the shackles of ignorance; to rise superior to the generality of their sex, and to give them an example of what they can, of what they ought to perform. They have taught, by their example, more powerful than precept, that the dignity, the attraction of the female character, does not consist in the gaudy glitter of an outward appearance, or in the vain display of costly and external accomplishments. They have taught; nay, they have verified the assertion of the poet
Mind, mind alone, bear witness, earth and heav'n,
The next argument of the affirmant, and upon which he lays, very justly, a considerable degree of stress, is, that women should have the best possible education, because to them is committed the task of instilling into the minds of children the first rudiments of knowledge. They are to stamp on the pliant wax im. pressions which can never afterwards be totally erased. How infinitely important is it, then, that they be fitted to give to these impressions a character of beauty, of uscfulness, of knowledge, and of virtue!
The affirmant next proceeds to make a comparison between the learning of soine of the females of ancient days, and that which is possessed by the generality of females now; and by some roundabout manner of reasoning, is led to conclude, that Aspasia must have been a lady of wonderful literary acquirements, because Socrates, the wisest and best of philosophers, studied rhetoric and politics under her tuition. It would certainly have been better for the wise Socrates if he had learned a little of that cunning and prudence for which that lady was more especially remarkable. And here, though it is wandering a little from the subject, I must be permitted to remark, that Socrates, however he might have been influenced by accomplishments in the choice of tutoress, was not so in the choice of his wife, who, by all accounts, was a mere vixen, and famous for nothing so much as her skill in scold. ing; and every disciple of this lady is universally and honourably denominated a Xantippe. The only reasonable solution which the
best writers have been able to give for this foolish action of the wise Socrates, is, that he must have married for money; and the practice, the honourable practice which has now become so preva. lent in our enlightened days, must date its origin from him, and is consequently supported, no matter who says to the contrary, by the authority of philosophy.
Those men, let it be observed, are often called base and unprincipled, who, in the emphatic language of the times, are said to marry a fortune with the incumbrance of a woman ; and they are branded as unfeeling, if, when possessed of the fortune, they care but little for the wife. But here I apprehend much injustice is done them. Why should they be blamed? Fortune, not woman, was the goddess to whom they paid their adorations; she gave them all she had, and they ceased to burn their incense on her altar. Women, women alone are to blame when they trust their happiness to the base and unprincipled. Let them bestow their hands, their hearts, and their fortunes only on those of acknow. ledged integrity. Let thein discountenance the fop, the profli. gate, the gambler, and the spendthrift. Let them not, as is too
. often the case, look only to external appearance. Let them study the character, the disposition, and the mind. Then their happiness would be safe, and though life could not be one continued round of unvaried enjoyment, yet
But to return more particularly to the subject. The affirmant now proceeds to give a marvellous hard slap at the education of the present times, and asserts that the very summit of female excel. lence in this city, is a little smattering of French, some small skill in music, about as much in painting, with a very great degree of proficiency in the knowledge of what is commonly, though on that account not the less elegantly, denominated spinning street yarn !!
How the ladies will be inclined to receive this VOL. II.
assertion from their champion, I cannot tell ; yet if ever perchance he has taken a stroll in Broadway from the Battery to Park. Place, or from Park-Place to the Battery, I will venture to say that he has found quite as many men as women engaged in this most important, most useful employment.
The opponent, to whom I now proceed, conscious that he had a part to support which would not be very grateful to many of his hearers, begins with declaring that his task was unpleasant, and that he expected to meet with frowns, and to encounter prejudice ; to contend against all the pride of the one sex, assisted by all the gallantry of the other. Disdaining, however, to court the favour of the fair by the least sacrifice of opinion, he boldly proclaims himself the asserter of truth, the vindicator of the superiority of man, the refuter of absurd and pernicious opinions. By an exami- . nation of one or two of his arguments we will be able to see how well he supports his character, and whether they are quite so weighty as he is inclined to imagine.
The first objection of the opponent is, that if you pretend to give women a liberal education, too much of their time will be engrossed from the more important duties of life. Now it quite distresses me to hear any one talk about time; and every individual, whether male or female, who is ever found to give want of time in excuse for ignorance, will inevitably be laughed at, if not despised. The cares of a family, and the several duties of life, says the opponent, are to occupy the attention of the sex. Truly we in some measure agree with this proposition, but he is mistaken in applying our reasoning altogether to married women. We say that the female sex should receive a liberal education before they are married, and then they will be fitted to fill that station with dignity and honour. But even meeting him on his own ground, we may ask why they should not be engaged in cultivating the faculties of their minds in every station in which they may be placed? The cares of a family and the relative duties of life
a cannot always occupy their attention, and what but a want of the