Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter iv - Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches
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chapter iv - George Turnbull, Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches 
Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches, ed. Terrence O. Moore, Jr. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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The true philosophy, and the proper methods of teaching it more fully described; where the Socratic method of teaching; and instruction by fables, parables or allegories are considered.
It was impracticable to get through the subject of the former chapter, so as to render this treatise on education as full and compleat as it ought to be, without entering into a particular detail that may perhaps be tedious to those who are much conversant with it. But now we return to a matter which is in itself more entertaining, and where we can have but small assistance from others, so little hath it been considered, tho’ it be of the highest importance in education.
The character of that true philosophy, which alone hath produced, and only can produce patriots, truly good and great members of society, is strongly painted out to us by Tacitus in his account of Helvidius Priscus, and the education to which he owed his eminent abilities and virtues. “Ingenium illustre altioribus studiis juvenis admodum dedit: non ut plerique, ut nomine magnifico segne otium velaret, sed quo firmior adversus fortuita, rempublicam capesseret. Doctores sapientiae secutus est, qui sola bona quae honesta, mala tantum quae turpia; potentiam nobilitatem, caeteraque extra animum neque bonis neque malis annumerant, &c.”63 This was the philosophy that prevailed in Greece and Rome, while these countries produced those glorious names, which, being an honour to human nature, so greatly adorn their histories; as indeed it is the only philosophy that can inspire or support virtue, and keep men firm to duty in spite of all temptation from the side of danger or of pleasure: The philosophy, that by accustoming one to regard the rectitude of actions, more than external loss and suffering, or pleasure and advantage, enables him to disdain whatever comes into competition with virtue, with the honestum, and steadily to prefer untainted integrity to all that can be gained by prostitution of honour. How elegantly is it described by Lucan in his soul- rouzing character of Cato?
So Socrates, as we learn from Plato and Xenophon, always described the truly great and brave man. And how delightfully, how warmingly do we find Cicero combating the contrary philosophy, in proportion to the spreading and prevalence of which, hath public virtue ever declined, as it manifestly did among the Greeks and Romans: That philosophy which set up pleasure as the sovereign good, and taught men that selfishness is wisdom, and that they were chiefly to consult external ease and conveniency, and not solely the dignity of human nature, or the eternal and immutable rules of moral rectitude, in their choices and pursuits.65 “Were ever, saith he, the names of Lycurgus, Solon, Leonidas, Epaminondas, and other such heroes, who made public good the sole or chief measure and standard of their conduct mentioned in the schools of Epicurus, where pleasure was painted out in regal pomp, beautifully arrayed, and sitting upon a magnificent throne, with the virtues attending her like waiting-maids, who had no other employment but to receive and execute her orders, and whispering her in the ear only to take care to do nothing rashly, or that might bring pain after it. ‘Nocet empta dolore voluptas.’66 The disciples of Epicurus painted this tablature elegantly enough in words: But can you, Torquatus, look into your own mind, and seriously consult your own honest heart, and the noble pursuits to which it generously stimulates you, without being ashamed of this picture? Can you bear the servile language and air he gives to the virtues?—Can such principles animate and excite men to truly laudable and heroic actions? Can such philosophy produce public spirit, love of mankind and true magnanimity? In truth Torquatus, you must either quit the defence of indolence and voluptuousness, or give up all our patriots, heroes and deliverers for fools.—To bring the enjoyments of sense, and the satisfactions of our superior powers of reason and judgment under the denomination of pleasure, is a plain receding from the common notion of the word, and a mere shift and collusion. They do not deal fairly or candidly with us, who in their grave lectures admit that for pleasure, which, at an ordinary time, and in the common practice of life is so little taken as such. The mathematician who labours at his problems and theorems, the bookish man who fatigues his body and mind by severe studies and profound researches, the artist who voluntarily endures the greatest toils and hardships, none of these are said to follow pleasure, nor will those who call themselves the only men of pleasure admit them of their number. The satisfactions of the mind, which are purely mental, and consist solely in sentiment and thought, are too refined for them who are so taken up with pleasures of a more substantial kind. They who are so captivated by the idea of sensitive gratification, can have but little relish for the more spiritual and intellectual sort. But this latter, however, they cry up and magnify upon occasion, to avoid the ignominy which may redound from an open avowance of the former; and this done the latter may take its chance, its use is presently at an end. For it is observable, that when men of this sort have recommended the enjoyments of the mind under the title of pleasure, when they have thus dignified the word, and comprehended in it whatever is mentally good and honest, they can afterwards suffer it contentedly to slide back again into its own genuine and vulgar sense, whence they raised it only to serve a turn. When pleasure is called in question and attacked, then reason and virtue are called on to her aid, and make principal ingredients of her constitution. A complicated form appears, and comprehends streight all which is generous, beautiful and honest in human life. But when the attack is over, and the objection is once dissipated, the spectre vanishes; pleasure returns again to her former shape, and she may even be pleasure still, and have as little concern with dry virtue, and sober reason, as in the nature of the thing, and according to common understanding, she really has. If virtue be an empty name, if there be no distinction between moral rectitude and turpitude of actions, then ’tis no matter how one lives, or what he does, if he can but save himself from pain.—But if there be any dignity belonging to human nature, as adorned with intelligent and active powers:—Or if there be any rule of action, then the first and essential question to be asked on every occasion is, whether the thing proposed be virtuous, whatever it may cost, or be not base whatever advantage it may bring with it. And men consequently are to be taught to postpone and undervalue every gratification on the one hand, and every pain or danger on the other, in comparison of an untainted heart and life.” Thus does Cicero often argue, or this language, at least, does he put often in the mouth of his advocate for virtue against the Epicurean doctrine.
But to proceed more regularly in this present enquiry, we shall fix before our view a short definition of the philosophy which ought to be the chief object and scope of education given us by an admirable author, in whose words, as near as I can remember them, I have given you these reasonings in Cicero de finibus, concerning virtue and true philosophy. “To philosophize, says he, in a just signification, is but to carry good-breeding a step higher. For the accomplishment of breeding is to learn whatever is decent in company, or beautiful in arts; and the sum of philosophy is to learn what is just in society, and beautiful in nature, and the order of the world.”67 True philosophy teaches the order of nature, and the order of human life. And therefore tho’ languages ought not to be neglected, this philosophy ought to be the chief employment of youth every day from their earliest years; that they may timeously learn to delight in searching into the wisdom and goodness of nature, and to love and imitate its all- perfect former and ruler. Lead pupils through air, sea and earth, and teach them to observe the chief properties of these elements, and their final causes, or the infinitely various uses to which they minister, with relation to all the immense diversities of perceptive beings with which they are so richly peopled, that in reality there is no chasm, no blank in nature, but perfection rising above perfection so gradually, from the lowest to the highest, as to leave no room to doubt that any possible or imaginable species of life is wanting in it. Teach them why all matter hath gravity, and why, in the proportion, that gravity takes place near the surface of our earth: Shew them how and why all matter attracts and is mutually attracted, and set before them various effects of this universal law: Let them be taught to observe what an infinite diversity of qualities arises from various textures of bodies, and to what excellent uses all these serve or may be employed: Explain to them the law according to which fluids press; and why fluids, as well as solids, have different specific gravities, and the manifold advantages of these laws: Point out to them the elasticity of the air, and the advantages arising from thence: Explain respiration, flying, swimming, and sailing to them: Carry them into the fields and gardens, and entertain them with the riches of nature that there displays itself, and with the laws of vegetation: Dive with them into the bowels of the earth, and develop to them the treasures of useful minerals and metals which lie hid there: Let not the structures of animals be neglected, but shew them how each species is furnished and adapted for its proper element and peculiar manner of life: And far less let the wonderful instincts implanted by the Author of nature in every tribe of animals, so suited to each particular oeconomy, be overlooked: Travel over our whole earth with them, and shew them how and where it was first peopled, and into what various climates and soils it is divided: Explain to them the source of light and heat, these genial powers of nature whence proceeds all life and motion; the diurnal and annual revolutions of the earth round the sun, and in consequence thereof, the regular succession of day and night, and of the seasons departing and returning at their appointed times: Mount with them to the heavens, and unfold to them our mundan system, and the laws of central and centrifugal forces, which retain our earth and its companion planets in their orbits, while they roll round, at so well proportioned distances and periods, their common enlivener: Unfold to them the various uses of the moon to our earth; and then acquainting them with the fixed stars, teach them to consider them as so many suns of like utility with ours: Teach them not to be startled at eclipses, nor at storms and earthquakes, but to trace them to their causes: Learn them to admire the simplicity and consonancy of all nature’s laws: Shew them how nature never deviates from her purpose, never errs or is deficient; but that in a system compounded of such immense variety, some laws must unavoidably be sometimes thwarted by other laws of equal advantage in the whole, hence all her seeming irregularities or deviations: In fine, guide them gradually through all of nature philosophers have yet been able to understand and explain: And teach them to observe how nature can only be understood or unfolded, and how general properties or powers, and laws of powers are inferred from particular experiences by induction: And take every opportunity that offers of recommending to them that study of lines, figures and proportions, which hath been of so great use in unraveling nature, and explaining her operations, and in the invention of beneficial arts. For so soon as they have any idea of the utility of geometry in this respect, viz. as a key to the works of the great Geometrician, who doth all things according to weight and measure, they will be desirous of being initiated into it; and a little daily practice in it will wonderfully enlarge and invigorate their minds. But let not researches into nature stop here, but proceed yet higher to its nobler parts, viz. to the contemplation of the human mind, and the various capacities with which it is endued, to be improved by proper culture to very high perfection; till they clearly perceive what constitutes good order within the soul, and consonancy thereby with the universal Mind, whose workmanship our thinking and reasoning powers and all things that exist, are, and what makes good order in human society, or maintains and upholds public happiness. The transition from facts and final causes of the one kind, to those of the other, is exceeding natural and easy; and all the while the student is entertained with real harmonies, the knowledge of which qualifies for real usefulness in the world. ’Tis strange that any should imagine that enquiries into the structure of the mind, or its powers, and their laws and connexions, are to be carried on in any other way than researches into the qualities of bodies and their laws, i.e. by careful attention to what experience teaches, and just reasoning from experience; or that these enquiries should be imagined to have no affinity or relation the one to the other. How can facts be known but by experience; external facts but by the testimony of our senses, or internal ones but by inward sensation or consciousness? And what things can be more closely or intimately blended and connected than our bodies are with our minds, and by consequence, the laws of the material world with those relating to our moral powers? In the knowledge of these two consists the whole of real science; the science which enables either for self-government, or for beneficialness in human society; beneficialness to society, whether with respect to the arts of policy, or the mechanical arts, on the advancement of which the conveniency and comfort of human life so greatly depend. Contemplation is the proper employment, the proper food of the understanding; and the contemplation of the beautiful order and wise final causes of nature in all her laws and productions, hath a delightful influence on the temper of the mind, by inspiring into it the love of order in the heart, and in outward manners, and by wonderfully harmonizing the soul, and all its affections and motions. And indeed, as it is in itself an exceeding pleasing employment, for which man is the only creature within our cognizance that is fitted by his frame, whether of body or mind; so it must be considered by all who believe a future more spiritual existence of our souls, in which their principal business and happiness are to consist in the intelligent contemplation and admiration of the divine works and government, as a very necessary preparation to capacitate for such exercise. For they who are acquainted by practice with searching into established connexions and general laws of nature, and their good ends here, are by such use qualified for continuing the same research, however new the objects may be; whereas, on the other hand, one who is an utter stranger to such enquiries, must enter into a future state, very unprepared for that which is justly supposed to make so considerable a part of the employment and entertainment of a future more intellectual and refined existence. But this is not all; for even confining our views entirely to our present state, all the interests of human life require large insight into the laws of the natural and moral world. Nothing can be done for the furtherance of human happiness without it. And in proportion to the advancement of moral and natural knowledge, are men qualified for all the nobler purposes and uses or advantages of human life. All the practical arts, whether of the moral or natural kind, from which any benefit to society can be brought, presuppose this knowledge: They cannot precede, prevent or surpass it, but must owe their advancements to its improvements, and do indeed proportionably advance with it. In every regard therefore, it is the business of education to acquaint youth early with the method of studying nature, and with the pleasure and advantage of such study: It is not merely necessary on this account, that they may be able, when men, to amuse themselves agreeably, and without making the least step towards vice in hours of retirement and solitude: But it is absolutely requisite, in order to qualify them for serving their country when they enter into the world, and capacity for action is reasonably expected from them: From all, of some kind, and of the highest sort from those whose birth and fortunes afford them time and means of high improvement: For no man is born for himself alone; and consequently a happier situation for improving one’s mind, is in reality a proportionably stronger obligation to take due pains to fit one’s self for the most important services to society. If every man be under obligations to mankind, to his country in particular, the bond, the tie must bear proportion to, and grow with the means and power one’s rank and place, by the allotment of providence, gives him. In this wise and just light ought youth, exeemed by an advantageous birth from drudgery to their backs and bellies, to consider this their good fortune. But in vain would they be called upon to enforce this noble sentiment upon their minds, if they were not at the same time initiated into the knowledge, which alone can qualify them for acquitting themselves of this obligation. Moral and natural philosophy, sciences, which tho’ distinguished by different names, are indeed, in their nature, as nearly allied as their objects, soul and body, ought therefore chiefly to enhance the time of youth, whom we would prepare for living either agreeably or usefully in the world, either for solitude or for active life: And languages are only necessary as means of getting into acquaintance with the knowledge of those who went before us, or who speak different languages from our own; or for the sake of communicating what we know to others; and are therefore but a subordinate part, which should have but a subordinate share of their time and application. Let youth be early led through several parts of nature, and from them to the consideration of the Author of all things, whose perfections shine so conspicuously in every law and effect of nature. Let some part of this study be their daily employment, so soon as they can, by the properest care, be rendered capable of it, which, if proper means and methods be used, will be found to be much sooner than we are apt to imagine; and can never be, without taking fit ways for engaging them in it, and making them like it. Much, very much may be done, as we shall see afterwards, to gain this effect, without the formality of lessoning, by conversation. But let even their earliest lessons be of this kind chiefly. Nor will this be difficult for masters who are themselves acquainted with this study, considering the helps they may have from several excellent writings, in which natural phenomena are reduced to their general physical laws, and others in which the final causes of these laws are pointed out. Yet it is to be wished that some system of physics were compiled out of such writings for the use of youth, in which effects were ranged into a more simple and natural order than any I have yet seen, in which final causes are not entirely overlooked. For, generally speaking, the explication of effects, and the doctrine of final causes are sejoined: at least, in the treatises of physics wrote for the instruction of young students, little or no notice is taken of the uses and ends of the laws of nature. Sir Isaac Newton, who may be justly called the light of the natural world, since a great part of it was utterly involved in darkness, utterly unknown till he was able to penetrate into it and unfold it; but more especially, since the nature of light itself, by which all things are rendered visible, was first laid open and explained by his accurate profound researches and reasonings.—This truly marvellous genius, as Socrates in ancient times, with good reason blames68 “Latter philosophers for banishing the consideration of the first cause out of natural philosophy, feigning hypotheses for explaining all things mechanically, and referring other causes to metaphysics; whereas the main business of natural philosophy is to argue from phaenomena, without feigning hypotheses, and to deduce causes from effects till we come to the very first cause, which certainly is not mechanical; and not only to unfold the mechanism of the world, but chiefly to resolve these and such like questions: What is there in places almost empty of matter, and whence is it that the sun and planets gravitate towards one another, without dense matter between them? Whence is it that nature does nothing in vain; and whence arises all that order and beauty which we see in the world? To what end are comets, and whence is it that planets move all one and the same way in orbs concentric, while comets move all manner of ways in orbs very excentric; and what hinders the fixed stars from falling upon one another? How come the bodies of animals to be contrived with so much art, and for what ends are their several parts? Was the eye contrived without skill in optics, and the ear without knowledge of sounds, &c?” To treat physics in another manner, is to leave out the most pleasing and useful part of that science, with respect to the habit and temper of the mind. For repeated views of harmony, wisdom and goodness in all the works of nature rivet firmly upon the mind a fixed conviction, that all is under the administration of a general Mind, as absolutely remote from all malice as from all weakness, whether in respect of understanding or power, than which nothing can have a more sweetning influence upon the mind. A bad opinion of the Author and Governor of the universe must not only sour the mind, but provoke to like malignity as far as our power reaches. “And, according to the hypothesis of those who exclude an universal Former and Father of the world, it must be confessed there can nothing happen in the course of things to deserve either our admiration and love, or our anger and abhorrence. However, as there can be no satisfaction at the best, in thinking upon what blind chance and atoms produce, so upon disastrous occasions, and under calamitous circumstances, ’tis scarce possible to prevent a natural kind of abhorrence and spleen, which will be entertained and kept alive by the imagination of so perverse an order of things. But (continues the same excellent moralist) on another hypothesis (that of perfect Theism) it is understood, ‘That whatever the order of the world produces, is in the main both just and good.’ Therefore, in the course of things in this world, whatever hardship of events may seem to force from any rational creature, a hard censure of his private condition or lot, he may, by reflection nevertheless, come to have patience, and to acquiesce in it. Nor is this all. He may go further still in this reconciliation, and from the same principle, may make the lot itself an object of his good affection, whilst he strives to maintain his generous fealty, and stands so well disposed towards the laws and government of his higher country. Such an affection must needs create the highest constancy in any state of sufferance, and make us in the best manner support whatever hardships are to be endured for virtue’s sake. And as this affection must of necessity cause a greater acquiescence and complacency with respect to ill accidents, ill men and injuries, so of course it cannot fail of producing still a greater equality, gentleness and benignity in the temper. Consequently, the affection must be truly a good one, and a creature the more truly good and virtuous by possessing it. For whatever is the occasion or means of more affectionately uniting a rational creature to his part in society, and causes him to prosecute the public good, or interest of his species with more zeal and affection than ordinary, is undoubtedly the cause of more than ordinary virtue in such a person. This too is certain, continues the same author, that the admiration and love of order, harmony and proportion, in whatever kind, is naturally improving to the temper, advantageous to social affection, and highly assistant to virtue, which is itself no other than the love of order and beauty in society. In the meanest subjects of the world, the appearance of order gains upon the mind, and draws the affection towards it. But if the order of the world itself appears just and beautiful, the admiration and esteem of order must run higher, and the elegant passion or love of beauty, which is so advantageous to virtue, must be the more improved by its exercise in so ample and magnificent a subject. For ’tis impossible that such a divine order should be contemplated without extasy and rapture, since in the common subjects of science and the liberal arts, whatever is according to just harmony and proportion, is so transporting to those who have any knowledge or practice in the kind.” These are excellent reasons for instructing youth early in the harmony and good order of the world. In truth virtue hath not, it cannot have its full force, unless it be considered as imitation of, and conformity to the temper of the universal Mind, that framed and governs all things, and therefore as absolutely requisite to recommend to his favour. Virtue is not only not complete, when due affection is wanting towards the infinitely perfect Parent of nature, but where this is wanting, there can neither be the same benignity, firmness or constancy; the same good composure of the affections, or uniformity of mind, as where the settled persuasion of perfect administration is daily comforting the mind in its adherence to virtue, and exciting to more and more extensive benevolence, in emulation of such an amiable character, and through desire of his approbation and love. Natural philosophy, or instruction in the wisdom and goodness of the works of creation and providence, is therefore the first step in teaching and recommending virtue. The moral lesson should proceed thus, viz. by inferring from every fresh instance of good order and wise contrivance, the perfection of the universal Mind, and his liking to virtue, which is nothing else but serious affection to publick good, subduing and ruling all our other affections. Thus virtue comes upon the mind with all its collected force, with all its charms and obligations; and therefore cannot fail of taking fast hold of it, and of bringing, by repeated considerations of this kind, all our appetites and passions into due and regular subordination to it. Instances of wise final causes, duly explained, will easily lead at once to a clear view of the nature of virtue, or of rational perfection, and of all our obligations to it. For they will lead to this evident truth, which renders the cause of virtue quite triumphant; namely, “That God, who is perfect wisdom and virtue, must approve and love those who are at due pains to improve in wisdom, and what he loves and delights in he will make happy.” Indeed every evidence of the wisdom and benignity of the Author of the universe, is an incontestible proof of his sincere and thorough regard to virtue; and consequently, that the truly good will be well taken care of under his administration. For perfectly wise and good administration must mean such government as is adapted to the promotion, improvement, encouragement and honour of virtue. These are equivalent propositions; or at least the one is involved in the other. And as nothing can be more preservative of virtue, more comfortable or strengthening to it than this delightful persuasion; so the proper way of confirming and fixing it upon the mind, in such a manner as to render it an active principle, is to be daily inculcating it upon youth, from such instances or examples of wisdom and goodness in the works of nature, as set the moral perfection of the Creator and Governor of the universe beyond all doubt. But for this effect, natural philosophy must not stop short at natural phenomena, properly so called, that is, the effects of matter and motion, but consider also the moral powers, faculties and affections with which human minds are adorned, and the noble improvements to which they may be exalted by due culture. And indeed here final causes lie yet more open and obvious to all who will be at any pains to enquire into them, than in physiology. For how many glorious instances doth history, nay even present times, afford of the perfection of knowledge to which human reason, and the perfection of benignity to which human hearts may be improved, which loudly upbraid the folly, perverseness or indolence of all who fall short of them! Not one power or affection can be named in the human soul which may not be cultivated into some very noble perfection or virtue. Take away our understanding or our activity, and we become mere passive beings; but with these faculties, how great a dominion may men acquire, even on earth, and what noble and glorious deeds may they do? Take away our appetites and passions, and men will not indeed be in danger of several vices: But on the other hand, where will there be place for temperance, fortitude, generosity, and all the brighter virtues, which are the greatest ornaments of human nature? These powers and affections therefore are given us for very noble ends, however we may corrupt, abuse or pervert them: Even to make us truly great and good, to enable us to rule, and to give us subjects to rule and keep in good order and subjection, to afford us means of spiritual or moral dominion. In teaching the philosophy of the natural world, and of the human mind more especially, in order to lead to just conceptions of providence, and of human duty, frequent occasions will present themselves of taking off all the difficulties about providence which are apt to disturb the virtuous in their gloomy hours, or have ever afforded any plausible subterfuge to the professed disbelievers of a deity and a future state. For virtue, which is the best possession, as well as highest ornament of the rational nature, and into competition with which nothing can come, if there really be an after-life; or if the souls of men be really immortal, is a purchase in every man’s power. The vigorous persevering efforts of the mind to improve in knowledge, and every moral excellence, never prove abortive, but are ever rewarding themselves by fresh acquisitions, in which conscience triumphs with an undisturbable joy, no riot of sense amidst the greatest affluence or grandeur can equal. And as for external goods, how obvious is it, that they are upon the most equal footing imaginable with respect to all men, since it is industry or toil that procures them? They are by the establishment of nature its rewards: And therefore they are falsely said to be distributed by the Author of the world with partial respect of persons. In truth to demand that riches and health, and outward advantages, should never fall to the share of the vitious, but into the hands of the good and upright alone, is absurdly to demand, that honesty alone should be able to put forth the hand or move the limbs: It is to demand, that all the properties of air, fire and water, in one word, all the laws of mechanism, should shift and change, according to the intentions of human agents. But nature works not in so desultory a manner, but steadily and uniformly, that intelligent industry may be as successful as the laws of matter and motion, upon which the whole order of our corporeal system depends, permit, being never crossed or disappointed, but in consequence of the uniform operation of some very useful law. For did not nature produce external effects, according to the same unvarying laws and connexions, men would not be able to comprehend nature, nor consequently to imitate it, or to produce any effect by counsel and art; and being thus divested of all power, dominion or activity in the natural world, man would be a most ignoble, inglorious creature, in comparison of what his reason and active powers now render him. There lies therefore no objection against providence on account of the law of industry, by which external purchases or advantages are obtained, according to the appointment of nature. And much less do inequalities in the partition or division of outward happiness, arising from the want of benevolence amongst mankind, or the bad constitutions and administrations of civil governments, afford any ground for arraigning the frame of mankind, or the government of the world, since man is furnished with powers by his Author, improveable into so noble a capacity for promoting public good and happiness; and the partition or circulation of happiness must greatly depend upon the forms and administrations of civil societies, in consequence of man’s being framed for society and union: Because, in order to be framed for society, men must have been made mutually dependent, or in other words, common happiness must exceedingly depend upon right or proper confederacy to promote it. This is the case with regard to outward advantages, and necessarily too, in some measure, with regard to internal ones. But still a virtuous habit of mind is the truest felicity of man: And it is in every one’s power who will set about it in earnest to obtain this best of goods, even under the greatest outward disadvantages. For if we look into nature and transfer our view from thence inwardly into our own minds, we shall quickly find, that the supreme Author of the universe hath bound nature fast in the chains of his fixed decrees, laws or ordinances, which all corporeal things steadily obey; but he has left the soul of man absolutely free, so that every one may be what he wills, a Titus or a Caligula. Our power to form our minds, to subdue our passions, and to establish reason in our breasts as our legislator and ruler, is as evident to our feeling and consciousness as our existence: That within certain bounds we have power, dominion, or liberty, is as indisputable as our being. Now what remains to render this idea of human life absolutely consistent with the most perfect administration, if, consistently with these things above mentioned, we consider our present state as our first step into being, our entrance upon rational life; and consequently, as intended to be what such a state should be, a proper school of education, discipline and trial, for forming, cultivating, and bringing to perfection all the glorious virtues of which our moral powers and affections are naturally capable, to be succeeded by a state in which improved moral faculties shall be properly placed, i.e. so situated as to have proper exercise and employment about objects suited to them, and in consequence thereof, high and noble happiness. For if we look upon human life in this light, not only adversity but prosperity ought to be considered as designed to be a trial, a school to virtue for its exercise; and the vicissitudes with which this world is chequered, have, over and above the final cause already mentioned, this further moral fitness, even that they render this world a proper theatre for forming and bringing forth into action several noble truly glorious virtues. Some are tried by adversity, and some by prosperity, or rather all have their successions of both, not only that human nature may be diversified, and appear in various lights, and thus be a school to the thinking for acquiring moral knowledge, but that all may have their opportunities of fixing and invigorating in their minds all the active virtues and graces in their turns. To this we may add, that tho’ none are destined to be vitious, merely to give occasion to the wise and virtuous to display their wisdom and goodness, yet the vices into which so many wilfully plunge themselves, do in fact afford opportunities for the wise and good to exert several excellent qualities, for which there would otherwise be no room. For were there no infirmities, deficiencies, errors or vices, to supply, redress, correct, oppose, or reform, how would there be place for compassion, generosity, wisdom, valour, patience, magnanimity, patriotism, and a meek forgiving temper? It is in difficulties or struggles that virtue exerts all her excellence, and shines out with her fullest lustre.
This view of human life is at once consonant to the idea of the beginning of rational life, as ours plainly is, and to the perfections of the Creator of the world. Nay, perfect providence hath indeed no meaning, if we conceive otherwise of it. For what doth that universal pursuit of the greater order and good, which all researches into nature are daily confirming by fresh discoveries of beautiful and good contrivance mean, if rational powers, capable of eternal progress and exercise, are made to be destroyed, just after by great care and assiduous culture they are brought to a capacity for truly noble employments, instead of being removed into a situation proportionated and adapted to their acquired excellence, as this is to their cultivation and improvement? Where is there in nature any trace or mark of such waste and destruction, not to say cruel malignity? But having elsewhere insisted at great length69 upon these important truths, it is sufficient to observe here, that it is only by inculcating them early upon youth, that virtue can be taught or fully recommended and endeared to them. And therefore, unless virtue be an empty name, this is the proper, the essential lesson in education. Now the way to teach and confirm this doctrine, and all its excellent comfortable consequences, is to lead youth daily thro’ various instances of wisdom and order in the world, and from thence to the consideration of the human mind, and the perfection it is capable of; and to shew them how these marks of wisdom and benignity confirm a divine providence, universally pursuing the greater good, and therefore particularly interested in favour of virtue, the supreme excellence of the rational nature, and therefore God’s image. But in order to carry on moral philosophy to its due perfection, together with natural philosophy instead of stated lectures upon the faculties and affections of the human mind, and the virtues belonging to them, a better method is to read daily with them some piece of history. I have already taken notice, that it is proper to begin with reading and discoursing to them upon select characters or actions, such as those singled out by Mr. Rollin; but after their minds are a little opened and enlarged by this practice, it will be proper to read history with them in chronological order, that thus they may have a view of the progress of human affairs. There, ’tis known, fit examples will ever be presenting themselves for unfolding human nature, all the springs and movements by which we are actuated, all the vices into which mankind may degenerate or be perverted, and all the temptations by which men are misled or corrupted, and all the glorious virtues of which men are susceptive, and the means by which they are strengthened, tried and perfected. Lectures have but little force without examples, and it is better that examples should give occasion or rise to the lectures, than that the latter should seem to haul in the other, as it is better in natural philosophy, that a simple narrative of the facts should precede the conclusions they lay a foundation for. Let the first lessons aim at nothing higher than fixing useful facts upon the memories of youth, which are very tenacious of whatever is agreeably represented or told to them, and giving them a general notion of the excellence of virtue and the deformity of vice. But let not, however, such lessons stop short at mere generals: But let youth be often practised in giving their opinion of actions and characters, and resolving questions about fit and unfit, just and unjust, that they may have by this practice clear and distinct ideas of just and unjust, generous and mean, in every particular circumstance of life, and may thus lay up in their minds sound judgments, confirmed by examples for the direction of their conduct in all the various cases, relations, businesses, or incidents of human life, which shall ever afterwards be ready for use. For it is not enough to have a general notion of virtue: One to be prepared for life must be able to judge readily what virtue requires in almost every particular situation or circumstance. No doubt order requires, that teachers begin with the simpler cases, and proceed gradually to those which require accurate attention to more circumstances; but neither wisdom nor virtue are a ready stock at full command, till by frequent practice in judging, duty immediately presents itself, supported by the solid reasons which render it such, when decision or action is requisite. The great lesson to be inculcated is the excellence of virtue, or unblemished integrity, by steady impervertible adherence to truth and right. And the most important work of education, in order to produce this incorruptible disposition, is to fortify youth early against all the allurements of vice, on the one hand, and all base or mean terrors on the other. Now, for these lessons or instructions, history will ever and anon be furnishing expert masters with very proper and natural opportunities. And to proper examples of greatness of soul, in preferring public good, or truth and moral rectitude in any case to private interest, or of baseness of mind in yielding to any vice, either through voluptuousness or cowardice, it will be fit to add the most beautiful energetic passages in poets, describing or celebrating such true virtue, and stigmatizing with eternal infamy the opposite vices. Let this be done in our own language, till the students have made considerable progress in the learned languages. For maxims, precepts, principles or examples, written in harmonious numbers, both strike the reason more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by it afterwards. And surely instructions in virtue and duty ought not to be postponed to languages. Let all the force of reasoning be confirmed by examples, and all the charms of poetry and eloquence be likewise employed to rivet upon young minds abhorrence of every vice, and sincere love to virtue, and to teach them to look down with disdain upon wealth and outward grandeur, in comparison of the inward independency and liberty of an unpolluted heart. What requires the greatest caution of teachers, when they read history with young pupils, is to take care lest the splendor of the external pomp and magnificence of very wicked men, or the renown with which very inhuman atchievements have been most unjustly honoured, should dazle and mislead them into a false notion of glory. Let care therefore be taken, in the earliest part of their education, to inure them first to enquire into the justice and equity of actions, and to raise their aversion against all cruelty, all violence, all ungenerousness, from a full conviction of the essential difference betwixt right and wrong. But these things are obvious, and therefore need not be further enlarged upon. Teaching moral knowledge and virtue by history, tho’ it must begin, as we have said, yet it must not rest here, but proceed gradually, taking occasion, as the minds of pupils enlarge, to point out to them all the laws of natural equity with regard to the conduct of one sovereignty or civil state towards another in matters of negociations, commerce, war and peace, and to distinguish them from certain polite formalities, which tho’ they have been generally received amongst the more civiliz’d nations from very ancient times, because of their use, are not however founded on the same solid, unchangeable principles of justice. The one are to the other what in private life between man and man the forms of good-breeding or politeness are to the immutable rules of integrity. For in reality, tho’ the law of nature be distinguished, for the sake of order and method, from the law of nations, we are not to imagine that there is one law of equity and rectitude for the regulation of private men in their mutual commerce one with another, and another quite different for the regulation of states, or of those who hold the sovereignty in civil states, towards one another. Violence, injustice, ingratitude, infidelity, falshood, dissimulation, are the same hateful vices in the one case as in the other. And between nation and nation, as well as between man and man, truth, integrity, candour and generosity are the same virtues, and have the same indelible obligation: A state is but a greater one. If these laws of war and peace, as they are generally called, war and peace being the two principal articles to which all the affairs of nations or states may be reduced, are carefully attended to in reading history, youth will soon be prepared for reading with judgment and intelligence Pufendorff, Grotius, Heineccius,70 (an excellent introduction to this most important study) or any other of the celebrated doctors of the laws of nature and nations. And indeed it is very preposterous to begin reading or explaining these authors to youth till they are pretty well acquainted with history, since such lectures cannot stir one step without bringing examples, which, without previous acquaintance with history, cannot be sufficiently understood, but must rather be an embarassment. Another thing that ought not to be omitted here is, that before students can read the authors above mentioned, or any writer upon these subjects, or indeed fully draw all the information they otherwise might, from the best Roman authors, or fully relish them, it is necessary that they should be pretty well acquainted with the Roman law. And therefore I have always thought, that so soon as students have formed clear notions of justice, and of the end of civil government, or rather, in order to perfect their notions of them, Justinian’s institutes should be read with them, and they be practised in strictly examining the Roman laws and usages by principles of natural equity. It is well known, that the language of the writers on the laws of nature and nations is taken from the civil law; and besides, the principles of justice can never be so clearly or fully comprehended from mere general propositions and precepts, without the help of examples, as by taking to task, so to speak, a particular body of laws, and observing their agreements and disagreements with natural law, their deficiencies in respect of it, or their departures from it, and strictly canvassing the reasons of these diversities, with careful attention to the difference there must always be between the extent of natural and civil laws, and to the coherence there ought to be amongst the laws of any state, and the agreement they should have with the temper of the people for whom they were made, and their particular polity. Now the Roman laws are the best example for this purpose, for from them are the writers on natural equity ever borrowing their examples: No body of law, perhaps, recedes less from the law of nature: And in proportion as classical learning is reputed or valued, will acquaintance with the Roman laws and usages be necessary on this very account, that knowledge of them is indispensibly requisite to a thorough understanding of the best Roman authors, the best of their poets not excepted. Entrance upon this kind of study requires very considerable preparation. But however much reading the laws of nature and nations may be neglected in education, it is certainly necessary, if a thorough intelligence of equity be so; for it means nothing else. And if it be necessary, this is the regular manner of setting about and pursuing it. There is no other road to it. How can persons be qualified for making, reforming, or applying laws, which is the business of the highest civil stations in societies, without a thorough acquaintance with natural justice, and all the best fences for liberty and property, and with the interests of their country, which its laws and courts of justice ought to be adapted to promote or secure? With what conscience can any who are ignorant of these matters, thrust themselves into the important trusts which require profound acquaintance with them? And if the study be really of such evident utility, nay necessity, how unaccountable is it that it should not make a principal part in education? One who cannot judge of equity, and the interests of a country, whatever his birth may entitle him to, excludes himself from such a trust, by his neglect to fit himself for the momentuous charge: For if he adventures, unprepared, to undertake any such high commission, he boldly tramples under foot the most sacred rights of mankind, in respect of which crime that of any other who professes what he does not understand, or is not able to perform well, however high it be, is proportionably less, as the scope of every other profession is of inferior moment to this highest of trusts, providing for the public welfare and good, by redressing grievances, changing or reforming statutes, laying on taxes, and deciding fairly in ambiguous contests about property. Let me therefore call upon our young nobility and gentry seriously to consider what is their proper study, and upon all who are concerned in education, to reflect how unqualified they leave their pupils for the great business providence calls them to, however loaded they may go from them with other erudition, or however bedecked with merely ornamental accomplishments, if they are strangers to the nature and end of civil government, and the design and spirit of civil laws, and have not well digested notions of natural equity in its utmost extent, enabling them to discharge with equal dignity to themselves, and advantage to their country, the duties of judges, magistrates, or representatives; for otherwise they are not qualified for the great duty and business of their life. May I not add here a famous saying of Socrates, “That it is very strange that all the world should agree, that the arts of judging and governing are the most important of all arts, and yet every inferior profession should be thought to require an apprenticeship to fit for it, and this none at all. Who thinks of trusting a physician that is not known to have taken due pains to qualify himself for the business? And can birth or wealth give one a right to occupy the most momentous employments in the state, upon the skilful honest discharge of which all the interests of the public so greatly depend, whether he hath studied the arts of government, and thoroughly understand public good, and the intention of laws and magistracy, or not?”
Reading Justinian with young people, is necessary to acquaint them with the more useful part of Roman antiquities: And in general, it is fit that the books they read, in whatever language, should, so soon as possible, be such as are conversant about things of moment, the laws and customs of countries, and their foundation in reason, or the public interest of their country in particular: Such as are properest to give them a turn towards the fittest studies for them, and to qualify them to pursue these studies in the best manner. I am not for neglecting any branch of knowledge or science. But certainly, these of the highest and most extensive utility ought to be chiefly minded. And what can be more useful than expertness in judging of civil orders, laws and constitutions? Now to prepare for the reading and study which this requires, nothing more is necessary than just notions of good and fit, and their contraries in private life, or between man and man, and a strong sense of our natural indispensible obligations to the pursuit of public good: To this first part of education the other properly succeeds, as a continuation of the same study towards its perfection. But by what steps one ought first to be led to the notion of public good, and of the obligations we lie under to pursue it, hath been already observed. If natural philosophy, and the history of mankind so divide the time of youth as to make their principal work, and yet leave room for progress in languages, and exercises and diversions, youth may, by inculcating on their minds, upon proper occasions, these studies will plentifully afford to skilful masters for that purpose, a just idea of the frame and government of the universe, and this well-grounded hope the sincerely virtuous may comfort themselves with, in consequence of a divine providence administring all things to the best, “That in a state which is to succeed to our present one of trial and education, not to correct or amend, but to compleat and perfect this present system, well-improved moral powers shall be fully dignified and honoured, by being placed in circumstances adapted to their improvements, and affording them suitable employments, and by that means happiness of the noblest and most perfect sort the rational nature is capable of; happiness the same in kind with that of the divine Being, which appears evidently from his works, to consist in the perpetual exertions of his infinite power, under the direction of unerring wisdom and compleat benevolence, in communicating or spreading happiness and perfection as far and wide as omnipotence can reach, by the wisest and benign est management.”—By inculcating this proper lesson upon youth, on every occasion, they will soon be qualified for determining what virtue requires or forbids, in whatever particular cases and circumstances, insomuch that after some gradual practice in comparing and examining cases of right and wrong, the most complicated will become easy to them.
In truth, where this kind of education hath no place, youth are daily employed in things much more intricate, perplexed and difficult. And till it can be proved not to be the most necessary branch of education for private happiness or public service, it ought certainly to have the principal share in the instruction of youth, whatever may be thought the fittest method of teaching it. But what can be a more natural, easy, or pleasant method, what can answer the main end better, which is recommending virtue by a full view of all its charms and obligations, than that which hath been pointed out, I cannot conceive. For till virtue is apprehended as conformity to the character, temper and will of the Author of the universe, as what he likes and approves, and will in proper time sufficiently dignify, honour and reward, by placing it in a state which will afford it high and noble entertainments and exercises, after it is qualified for them by inferior employments, in its first state of schooling and probation. Till virtue is thus conceived of, all its excellence, all its strength, all its obligatory force is not understood or felt: And it is only from the nature of the divine works, which may be called his actions, that we can judge of the divine disposition, character or government, even as we can only judge of other beings by their conduct. We may indeed draw some few certain conclusions from the nature of a first cause, considered as such; and when we have found reason to infer the wisdom and goodness of the first independent mind, the source of all the beauty, excellence and perfection that are so largely dispersed through the universe, from his works and government, we may draw several necessary consequences from these his perfections, of the highest moment with relation both to our conduct and comfort. But ’tis from samples or specimens of wisdom and goodness alone that we can be fully satisfied with regard to the moral qualities of the first and universal Cause. And these indeed carry an irresistible conviction along with them; an evidence equally forcible and pleasing to the mind. Here therefore the first lessons concerning virtue ought to begin. And let it be considered by the by, how such instruction and study will qualify for the most agreeable of all entertainments in retired hours, whether forced or voluntary. None who are acquainted with such delightful, uncloying researches, and with the benign, generous emotions they excite and keep alive in the mind, with the sweetness, cheerfulness, and complacency they diffuse through the whole soul, will ever complain of the dulness, the insipidity, the tiresome circle of human life, as many of those who are called men of pleasure are forced to do, amidst the most redundant affluence. ’Tis no wonder that strangers to all enjoyments but those of sense and voluptuousness, should be so often out of humour with themselves, with all about them, with the world in general, and be constantly pursuing happiness and ever disappointed, as they plainly appear to be, by their splenetic fretting, by their flying from themselves, and choosing to live in a perpetual hurry, and their changing and shifting their pleasures as often as their sickly peevish imaginations can present them with new fancies, and thereby raise new appetites. The mind of man must have business or exercise. But the pleasures of mere sense bear no proportion to the large capacity, or the active and refined nature of our rational faculties. But who ever tired of useful study; of enquiring into nature’s wisdom, order and goodness, or of imitating the Author of the world, by giving all diligence to improve his mind, and by exerting himself to the utmost of his power in doing friendly and generous offices? When did truth or virtue ever cloy, or leave remorse or disgust behind them? And the reason is, because rational are our properest, our best employments: Knowledge and virtue are the perfection of the reasonable nature: And it must hold universally true throughout all nature, whether in the material, animal, or moral world, that the most perfect state of a being is its soundest and happiest: To divide the perfection of a being from its happiness, is to separate a thing from itself: These two can no more jar than the essence of a being can differ from itself.
It cannot be expected that in a treatise of this kind, we should dwell long upon all the useful lessons that ought to be inculcated upon youth from history read in order, and which may indeed be much better taught and enforced from characters, actions and events, developing the inward springs of human conduct, and the different consequences of actions, whether with respect to private or public good, than by abstract philosophical lectures. In order to do this, it would be necessary to give some specimens of the instructions that may be drawn from a few select parts of history, by a kind of lectures upon them. But in truth, not to mention any of the ancient historians, one need only look carefully into Mr. Rollin’s abridgment of ancient history, to see that the records of human affairs which are transmitted to us, however defective they may be in several respects, will, however, afford sufficient opportunities of discoursing upon, and explaining at great length, of pointing out in examples, as in a glass, all the passions of the human heart, and all their various workings in different circumstances, all the virtues, and all the vices human nature is capable of, all the snares, all the temptations, all the vicissitudes and incidents of human life: Nor is it less evident, that history will give occasion for explaining not only all the rules of prudence, justice and integrity in private oeconomy, but likewise all the rules of justice, equity and decency relative to civil states, in their transactions one with another, i.e. all the laws of nature and nations, as they are commonly called, or more properly speaking, all the laws of natural reason with regard to independent nations or governments: ’Tis in history likewise that we may best see the necessity of good civil government, in order to the greatest happiness of mankind, the terrible effects of bad or ill-constituted government; and all the various springs and causes of changes and revolutions in governments of every sort. ’Tis therefore the best political as well as moral master. The bishop of Meaux71 and Mr. Rollin, not to name any other, have clearly pointed out every thing that ought chiefly to be attended to in history: And indeed there is hardly any truth in morals or in politics, which one may not learn from their works, with the assistance of a master acquainted with mankind, and with the ancient originals from which they have taken their remarks, as well as their facts. These authors teach us not only to attend to the moral and political facts above mentioned, but likewise to the regular succession and suite of human affairs, plainly demonstrating the superintendency of infinite wisdom, to the progress of religion in particular: In fine, they teach us to connect human affairs, and to take an united view of God’s moral providence. And indeed without this direction, one must needs be lost and bewildered in the moral world, in much the same manner, as he is in the natural, who rambles from part to part, without considering all as making one whole closely joined together, i.e. without any idea of the general laws into which all the variety of phenomena in it are reducible, and their excellent final causes. The instructive writers just mentioned are (I say) so full and distinct upon the uses of history, and the profitable lessons that may and ought to be derived from it into young minds, by a skilful teacher, in an equally pleasing and useful manner, that I shall here only take notice, that I have known very young men, without having neglected languages, very well acquainted with ancient and modern geography, and such perfect masters of the more remarkable successions and changes of empires, as they are delightfully delineated to us by the bishop of Meaux in a very narrow compass, as to be able thoroughly to understand, nay feel the important affecting truths these facts demonstrate, which can’t be better described than by briefly recounting a noted story of Scipio Africanus, whose character, in consequence of the excellent turn proper care about his education had early given him, ought frequently to be set before the eyes of youth, to excite them who would qualify themselves early for public service, to copy after his noble example. The story is shortly this:72 “When Scipio saw the famous city of Carthage, which had flourished seven hundred years, and might have been compared to the greatest empires, on account of the extent of its dominions both by sea and land, its mighty armies, its fleets, elephants, and riches, and that the Carthaginians were even superior to other nations by their courage and greatness of soul, as that notwithstanding their being deprived of arms and ships, they had sustained for three whole years, all the hardships and calamities of a long siege: Seeing this city entirely ruined, historians relate, that he could not refuse his tears to the unhappy fate of Carthage. He reflected that cities, nations and empires are liable to revolutions no less than particular men; that the like fate had befallen Troy, antiently so powerful, and in later times the Assyrians, Medes and Persians, whose dominions were once of so great an extent: And lastly the Macedonians, whose empire had once been so glorious throughout the world. Full of these mournful ideas, he repeated the following verses of Homer.
Thereby denouncing the future destiny of Rome, as he himself confessed to Polybius, who desired Scipio to explain himself on that occasion. He foresaw what must be the inevitable fate of Rome, if wealth should beget impatience of discipline, and in the room of ancient virtue introduce corruption, venality and dissoluteness of manners. How he came to be thus early, so knowing, both in political and military affairs; and withal so thoroughly generous and virtuous, as the whole of his conduct shews him to have been, we may learn from the accounts that are given of him and his education by history. Scipio, the destroyer of Carthage, was son of the famous Paulus Aemilius who conquered Perseus the last king of Macedon, and consequently grandson to that Paulus who lost his life in the battle of Cannae. He was adopted by the son of the great Scipio Africanus, and called Scipio Aemilianus, the names of the two families being so united, pursuant to the law of adoptions. Our Scipio supported with equal lustre the honour and dignity of both houses, being possessed of all the exalted qualities of the sword and gown. The whole tenor of his life, says an historian, with regard to his actions, his thoughts or words, was conspicuous for its great beauty and regularity. He distinguished himself particularly (a circumstance seldom found at that time in persons of the military profession) by his exquisite taste for polite literature and all the sciences, as well as the uncommon regard he shewed to learned men. It is universally known that he was reported to be the author of Terence’s comedies, the most polite and elegant writings which the Romans could boast. We are told of Scipio, that no man could blend more happily repose and action, nor employ his leisure hours with greater delicacy and taste: Thus was he divided between arms and books, between the military labours of the camp, and the peaceful employment of the cabinet, in which he either exercised his body in toils of war, or his mind in the study of the sciences. By this he shewed, that nothing does greater honour to a person of distinction, of what quality or profession soever he be, than the adorning his soul with knowledge. Cicero speaking of Scipio, says, that he always had Xenophon’s works in his hands, which are so famous for the solid and excellent instructions they contain, both in regard to war and policy. He owed this exquisite taste for polite learning and the sciences, to the excellent education which Paulus Aemilius bestowed on his children. He had put them under the ablest masters in every art, and did not spare any cost on that occasion, tho’ his circumstances were very narrow. Paulus Aemilius himself was present at all their lessons, as often as the affairs of government would permit, becoming, by this means, their chief preceptor. The strict union between Polybius and Scipio finished the exalted qualities, which, by the superiority of his genius and disposition, and the excellency of his education, were already the subject of admiration. Polybius, with a great number of Achaians, whose fidelity the Romans suspected during the war with Perseus, was detained in Rome, where his merit soon attracted the eyes, and made his conversation the desire of all persons of the highest quality in that city. Scipio, when scarce eighteen, devoted himself entirely to Polybius, and considered as the greatest felicity of his life, the opportunity he had of being instructed by so great a master, whose society he preferred to all the vain and idle amusements which are generally so eagerly pursued by young persons. Polybius’s first care was to inspire Scipio with an aversion for those equally dangerous and ignominious pleasures to which the Roman youth were so strongly addicted, the greatest part of them being already depraved and corrupted by the luxury and licentiousness which riches and new conquests had introduced into Rome. Scipio, during the first five years that he continued in so excellent a school, made the greatest improvement in it; and despising the levity and wantonness, as well as the pernicious examples of persons of the same age with himself, he was looked upon, even at that time, as a shining model of discretion and wisdom. From hence the transition was easy and natural to generosity, to a noble disregard of riches, and to a laudable use of them, all virtues so requisite in persons of illustrious birth, and which Scipio carried to the most exalted pitch, as appears from many instances of this kind related by Polybius, and highly worthy of being set before youth, to teach them where true dignity consists, and inflame them with a generous ambition to attain to it. It was at Scipio’s return from Macedon, that he met with Polybius in Rome, and contracted the strict friendship with him, which was afterwards so beneficial to our young Roman, and did him almost as much honour in after ages as all his conquests. We find by history that Polybius lived with the two brothers, and this incident, well worth our notice, is handed down to us. One day when Scipio and Polybius were alone, the former vented himself freely to him, and complained, but in the mildest and most gentle terms, that he, in their conversations at table, always directed himself to his brother Fabius, and never to him. ‘I am sensible, says he, that this indifference arises from your supposing, with all our citizens, that I am a heedless young man, and wholly averse to the taste which now prevails in Rome, because I do not plead at the bar, nor study the graces of elocution. But how should I do this? I am told perpetually, that the Romans expect a general and not an orator from the house of the Scipio’s. I will confess to you, pardon the sincerity with which I reveal my thoughts, that your coldness and indifference grieve me exceedingly.’ Polybius, surprized at these unexpected words, made Scipio the kindest answer, and assured the illustrious youth, that tho’ he always directed himself to his brother, yet this was not out of disrespect to him, but only because Fabius was the eldest; not to mention (continued Polybius) that knowing you possessed but one soul, I conceived that I addressed both when I spoke to either of you. He then assured Scipio, that he was entirely at his command: That with regard to the Sciences, for which he discovered the happiest genius, he would have opportunities sufficient to improve himself in them from the great number of learned Grecians who resorted daily to Rome: But that as to the art of war, which was properly his profession and his favourite study, he might be of some little service to him. He had no sooner spoke these words, but Scipio grasping his hand in a kind of rapture: ‘Oh! when, says he, shall I see the happy day, when disengaged from all other avocations, and living with me, you will be so much my friend, as to improve my understanding and regulate my affections? It is then I shall think myself worthy of my illustrious ancestors.’ From that time, Polybius overjoyed to see so young a man breath such noble sentiments, devoted himself particularly to our Scipio, who for ever after paid him as much reverence as if he had been his father. However, Scipio did not only esteem Polybius as an excellent historian, but valued him much more, and reaped much greater advantages from him, by his being so able a warrior and so profound a politician. Accordingly he consulted him on every occasion, and always took his advice, even when he was at the head of his army, concerting in private with Polybius all the operations of the campaign, all the movements of the forces, all enterprizes against the enemy, and the several measures necessary for rendering them successful. We have already observed, that Scipio had never given into the fashionable debauchery and excesses to which the young people at Rome so wantonly abandoned themselves. But he was sufficiently compensated for this self-denial of all destructive pleasures, by the vigorous health he enjoyed all the rest of his life, which enabled him to taste pleasures of a much purer and more exalted kind, and to perform the great actions that reflected so much glory upon him.”
’Tis such education that alone can produce so glorious a pattern of every great and amiable quality. And so soon as youth are able to enter into the excellency of such a character; they will have an example fixed on their minds that will at once give their ambition a very laudable turn, and direct them how to satisfy it. It was instruction in human affairs, knowledge of mankind, deep insight into all the movements of the human breast, and all the operations of moral causes, gathered from facts, that qualified Scipio very timeously for serving his country with such prudence and dignity, whether as a statesman or as a general. And therefore history, applied to these equally substantial and delightful uses, ought to make a main part in the institution of youth. Let it not however be imagined, that I would have any of the sciences, any part of philosophy overlooked in education. As for natural philosophy, it hath been already observed, that it ought to go hand in hand with moral history: And as for the other sciences, a little reflection upon the scope and uses of them, will soon shew every thinking person that one cannot on the one hand be qualified for them, till he is pretty well acquainted with the history of mankind, and hath treasured up in his judgment several of the more important truths it teaches, and it alone can confirm. Moral philosophy may be divided into the preliminary and more general part, which explains the constituent properties or powers of human nature, and their various motions or operations; all the faculties, powers, appetites and affections implanted in the breast of man, and their objects, tendencies, connexions, bearings and effects, and all the perfections or imperfections, virtues or vices belonging to them. But how abstruse, how abstract, dry and laborious will lectures of this kind be, till youth have been led by real examples to the knowledge of moral facts and their causes? And how easy and pleasant, on the other side, will such reading or study be to those, who having often seen the chief properties of human nature reflected on them by examples, as it were, in several mirrors, can immediately recal to their memories pregnant authorities for all that true philosophy can teach concerning mankind? As for the other subsequent and more particular part, which first of all classes under proper general heads the dictates of reason with relation to all the affairs of war and peace, and then enters into an accurate examination and comparison of different forms of civil government, and the maxims of policy, can it proceed solidly one step without historical examples; or can one be at all prepared for it till he hath carefully read the history of different nations and governments, and is considerably versed in the public affairs of states, which are at once the subjects of this philosophy, and the experiments from which alone it can draw any certain conclusions? It is highly necessary that the best writers on the laws of nature and nations, and upon politics, both ancient and modern, should be carefully read and well understood by all who would be duly prepared for the higher stations and services in their country: We are far from excluding such study from education: On the contrary, we regret that it is so much neglected. The question now under consideration is not whether it ought to have place, but when and what previous reading and instruction is requisite to it. And that very considerable acquaintance with history, and practice in drawing moral or political inferences from history is necessary to qualify for this study, seems to be indisputable, seeing it is from facts or experiments that moral doctrines must be deduced, as well as physiological truths. Every one is ready, now at last, to own that physical explications or rules, not founded upon and inferred from real facts in nature, are mere romance. But certainly it must be no less true with regard to morals and politics, that explications of effects, or rules for private or public conduct, not founded in and deduced from real truths or facts relative to mankind and human societies, are also mere vision. And which of the two is the most dangerous delusion we may leave to any considering person to decide. For all that is to be determined in this point is briefly, whether mistakes in mechanical or in moral attempts are likely to be of the most fatal consequence. Let youth in an orderly regular manner be instructed in the progress of human affairs, and inured to draw proper conclusions from them, first moral, and afterwards political ones, in proportion as their minds open and strengthen: And let the books put into their hands for teaching or improving them in languages, be such chiefly as have human affairs and duties for their subjects, such as Cicero’s books of laws and offices, &c. and after them Justinian’s institutes, and we shall soon find youth qualified to read with understanding, any of the best writers on natural law or on politics. But carry them without such preparation directly to systems of morals and politics, and you will find them sadly embarassed and difficulted, and proportionably displeased and fretted. The sciences have their natural order, and in vain do we attempt to get up to the top but by the gradual steps of nature’s appointment. There is indeed a science74 which bears very nearly the same relation to morals (by which let me be understood to mean the whole of philosophy relating to human nature and human affairs) that mathematics bear to natural philosophy, because, as the latter consists in investigating or demonstrating what properties of lines, figures, surfaces, solids, &c. may, must, or cannot co-exist [as when it is proved that a triangle or a circle must have such and such other properties] so the former consists in investigating or demonstrating what moral qualities may co- exist, what must co-exist, and what are absolutely incompatible: And therefore, as the one is a key to the natural world, so will the other, in proportion as it is cultivated, prove a key to the moral world. In other words, moral philosophy duly prosecuted, must be a mixed science, consisting of facts, and reasonings from facts, and abstract truths of the nature above mentioned conjointly, in like manner as physiology is a science mixed of observations or experiments, and reasonings from them, and mathematical truths conjointly. But having no orderly systems of these moral abstract universal truths for our assistance in moral enquiries, as we have of mathematical ones, to help us in physical researches, it cannot be introduced into the schools formally. The science we are now speaking of is widely different from that wild, pedantic jargon that hath long had too great a share in some schools and universities, under the name of metaphysic or ontology, of which we have already had occasion to speak our sentiments. But since we have as yet no system of the kind, it is needless to debate here what place it ought to have in education. Any one, however, who has any notion of what it must mean or propose to do, will immediately perceive, that it is not a study for novices, or raw unexperienced minds, but requires a large stock of distinct ideas, and a solidity of judgment, which must be the fruit of large acquaintance with nature, with human nature in particular. And indeed one of the best lessons that can be given to youth, whether with regard to progress in science, or to conduct in life, is to teach them to receive maxims, aphorisms, or general canons with great deliberation and caution. But, by the by, they are much mistaken who think, that whatever use even true maxims may be of in demonstrating truths after they are found out, they can be but of very little use to help invention. Were this the proper place for it, it might be easily made appear, that one of the best exercises for the improvement of invention, and the augmentation of science, is attentive practice in comparing and developing maxims of the truth of which we are sure. For upon a narrow scrutiny into any axiom of importance, it will be found to contain many truths in it which were not perceived when it was at first found to be true: When we begin to lay it open and spread it out, treasures that before lay hid in it gradually appear. There are in reality, as a great philosopher has well observed, but a very few truths in the world which make totally separate or distinct propositions. The greater part of every science is but one single maxim or two, diffused or spread out. To prove this, many moral maxims which are readily admitted and appear very simple, might be named, which, if duly attended to, would quickly put a period to several very warm disputes, and many very prevailing falshoods; as for instance, “that the knowledge of creatures must be progressive, or that moral experience must precede knowledge of rules that can only be deduced from many experiences”: “Habit or propensity presupposes not only a known object but repeated acts”: “Affections must have objects, or cannot be exercised without them”: But however that may be, the point in question remains indisputable, namely, that the best way of instructing in the affairs of mankind, is to begin with reading history, and drawing proper conclusions from the examples history furnishes; and to proceed to the profounder treatises on morals, after youth are very well acquainted with reasonings from facts, and have their minds richly stocked with clear ideas of human affairs, conveyed to them by examples. This certainly is the proper and natural order, if ideas can only be got from experience, and if we must have clear ideas before we can reason about them.
As for mathematics, it hath been already hinted, that some time should be allotted for regular instruction in that science, so far as is necessary at least for understanding the principles of mechanism, and comprehending the use of this science, as a key to nature, for the investigation of unknown natural causes, or the resolution of effects into known causes. And another reason hath likewise been suggested for making instruction in this science an early part of education, which is the natural tendency that a little practice in this elegant orderly science has to beget a habit of attention, to form the reasoning habit, and a taste of and liking to order and method. Now the only part of philosophy that remains to be considered, is logic; and of it we have had occasion elsewhere to say enough to shew that it is absurd to think of teaching it till youth have not only very well furnished minds, but have been pretty well practised in all the different species of reasoning. Let it only be added here, that the nature and degrees of moral, probable, or historical evidence, tho’ left out of what is commonly called logic, or but very superficially treated of in it, is, if not the most essential part of a science that merits to be called the art of reasoning, at least a very useful science in itself: And it can never be more successfully taught than in reading history, by leading students to consider and examine attentively and accurately the evidence of particular facts, and the assent due to various degrees of historical evidence, in proportion to the foundation each degree has in the general principles of probability. Plato considered logic as the finishing science in education. He illustrates the nature and use of it, by representing it as designed to give youth, after practice in various sciences, and all the different kinds of reasoning, demonstrative and probable, as from a summit, a view of the unity of the sciences: And as for that part of it which teaches disputing, or rather wrangling, he calls it teaching young people to delight in barking at one another like young whelps; and he pronounces it most pernicious in its tendency, in consequence of the dogmatical temper, or the itch of puzling, confounding, and perplexing by subtleties, it naturally has an influence to beget. Some may think we have been too long in delineating the sciences, which ought to make up liberal education: And others may think we have not been particular enough in our description of some of them. But the objection I am surest of meeting with is, How can there or will there be place for all these things? And therefore, tho’ some reply hath been elsewhere made to this objection, let me add here. 1. That what I have represented as the main instruction youth ought to have in view, is, in reality but one coherent lesson, that does not consist of many separate independent parts, but of two branches only, which are in their nature very closely united, the knowledge of the laws of our material system, and their final causes; and the properties of human nature and their laws. 2. Whatever be gained or neglected, if youth be not instructed in nature so far as to be able to carry on the study of it with equal understanding and pleasure, in proportion as they have leisure for it, when they leave the schools; and so far instructed in the nature, duties and rights of mankind, as to be fit, not only for private life, but for advancing by themselves in that knowledge without great perfection in which they must be absolutely unfit for public service, the most important point in education is not accomplished. 3. That while the sciences we have mentioned are left out in education, nothing but mere words can be minded, for there remains nothing else to mind; and to say that mere words should make the principal, or indeed more than the lowest scope in education, is directly to prefer words to things, i.e. pedantry, if there be any such thing, to real knowledge. 4. In the last place, it is contrary to many known facts or experiments, to say that a few hours a-day are not sufficient, if wisely managed from their tenderest years, to advance pupils very considerably in the knowledge of languages. And what is to be done with the rest of their precious time?
To proceed: It surely can’t be objected that we have left out religion. For we have endeavoured to shew, that even natural philosophy, if not employed to lead youth to a just notion of the perfections of the one Lord of the universe, and of our duties resulting from thence, falls far short of its best aim and noblest use, and is indeed little better than what is justly called in contempt cockle-shellship. The great design for which we have recommended instructing youth early in natural philosophy, i.e. in the laws of nature and final causes, is the moral use that may be made of this science, together with the improvement or extension of human power, which can only be brought about by advancing or cultivating the knowledge of nature. Youth ought to be taught and inured to ascend from instances of perfect wisdom and goodness in the creation, to the first Author of all beauty and good, and to pay the worship of heart that is due to such a Being: But above all, to inculcate upon themselves their obligations, arising from their relation to him, and from their interest, in consequence of his all-perfect government, [which must be in favour of virtue, and by consequence proportionably to the disadvantage of vice, in the sum and final result of things], to imitate the perfections of the Creator in wisdom and goodness; or to give all diligence to improve their moral powers, and to do good as they have opportunity, for this is the sum of religion, virtue and human duty. Now a mind thoroughly convinced of these truths, and deeply affected by them, is well prepared for instruction in the excellence of the Christian revelation. 1. For such a one will attend to it without prejudice, and consequently will soon see, that all the obligations Christianity represents as moral, all the duties it requires, whether with respect to God, our fellow-creatures, or ourselves, are perpetually binding, as resulting necessarily from the very nature of God, and our relation to him and to one another: And consequently, that were it possible to refute the external evidence with which the Christian revelation is accompanied, yet we could not shake off our obligation to these duties. Good men will not easily be induced to disregard a pretence to revelation which lays the stress of our acceptance with God where reason itself places it, i.e. where it must lie, in consequence of the divine immutable perfections: And whatever encouragement Christianity gives to those, who having long continued in their vitious courses, may, through their awful apprehensions of the divine rectitude and justice, despair of recovering the divine favour even by a change of life, it gives no ground of hope or comfort to any but those who become sincere lovers of virtue, and accordingly give due pains to advance and improve in it. This none of its enemies have dared to say: Nor can they, so strict, so pure are the morals Christianity teaches and commands, as the will of God for our salvation in a future state. 2. Those who have just conceptions of God, and the moral obligations resulting from thence, cannot have any objection against the glorious hopes Christianity sets before us, of rewards to duly improved moral powers, in a future state to succeed to this our present state of discipline and culture, by placing or employing them suitably there. For this is the very doctrine reason teaches us to infer from the divine rectitude. And it is in vain for vitious men to think of eluding severe suffering or punishment in a future state, for their neglect or prostitution of their moral powers, under the government of a Being who is infinitely perfect: Since an administration by which vice will suffer in the sum of things, in proportion to its demerit, is, in reality but another expression for an administration in favour of virtue, or in which men shall be treated according to their advancements in moral perfection. 3. And one who is well fixed in these principles, which are the foundations of religion, that is, without which there can be no religion, and it is absurd to talk of revelation, will not quarrel with Christianity on account of the positive duties it requires. One who is persuaded of the utility in respect of the public, and of the fitness in the nature of things, of public worship, will not find fault with Christianity for setting apart a stated time for cessation from labour to the brutes and the working part of mankind, on which God may be decently worshipped, and all ranks of men may have opportunity of fixing and enforcing their common duties upon their minds, and of being instructed in them. This Christian ordinance, if not absolutely a moral command, is so near a-kin to moral laws, that it is evidently in its nature a very proper mean of keeping alive in our minds a sense of divine providence, and all moral obligations. Nor are the other two positive rites or ordinances of Christianity more remote from moral duties, being likewise excellent means of improvement in virtue. Is not baptism a very proper mean of representing to parents their duties towards their children, and of bringing them under a known or declared public obligation to the diligent performance of them? And the Lord’s supper being nothing else but a serious grateful commemoration of all the blessed doctrines, i.e. all the blessed and glorious hopes set before us by Christianity thro’ Jesus Christ, who came to call us to virtue and glory, that we being made partakers of the divine nature, through holiness, might be qualified to dwell with God for ever, in the happy state he hath purchased, and is gone to prepare for the sincerely good, what can be more conducive, either to the improvement or comfort of Christians? of reasonable agents? It is an act of grateful praise, than which nothing in itself can be more joyous; and it is naturally a strong way of enforcing upon the minds of those who believe the truth of Christianity, a lively sense of all the obligations they lie under to the sedulous practice of true piety and virtue? All these therefore, which are the only institutions of Christianity that can be called positive, are indeed, in a true view of them, if not precisely of the same class with moral duties, yet very nearly allied to them, as moral means of improvement to every good affection or disposition of the soul. 4. He who is persuaded of the intrinsic excellence of the Christian institution, will not hesitate long about giving his assent to the external evidence it offers of its divine authority. For the works Jesus Christ wrought and gave his apostles power to work, bear the same relation to his doctrines that experiments have in natural philosophy to the doctrines or conclusions inferred from them, or which they are brought to prove, i.e. they were specimens or samples analogous in kind, and commensurate in quantity or moment to the knowledge and power he pretended to as a superior teacher, authorised by God to instruct mankind in several important truths relating to God, providence, virtue, vice, and a future state. By his works are meant the extraordinary cures he performed upon the sick and diseased of all sorts, his healing the lame, the dumb, and the blind, his instantaneously changing men’s tempers and dispositions, his insight into men’s most secret thoughts, his predictions of future events, his command over air, and sea, and every element, and above all, his raising the dead, and his rising from the dead himself the third day, as he had foretold, his ascension into heaven, and sending down miraculous gifts and powers upon his apostles, who were to be employed in propagating his gospel, as he had promised, to qualify them for that important business, and support them in it, and gain them credit. These works have been shewn to have the closest connexion with the truth of Christ’s doctrines, and together with the evidences he gave of his piety and integrity, to make a natural, proper and full evidence of his mission.75 And as for the credibility of the histories recording the works and doctrines of Christ and his Apostles, they stand on the same footing with other histories, and have indeed been so often proved to be above all scepticism, if historical evidence be at all admitted, that the disputers against Christianity do not choose to attack it on that side. In fine, the rational instruction of children in the genuine principles of Christianity, cannot be neglected by Christian parents or preceptors, without sinning against what they know and believe to be their indispensible duty: But certainly sound instruction in the principles of natural religion is a necessary preparation for it. And history will at least afford frequent proper occasions of shewing the utility, the absolute necessity of a public religion, and of evincing the excellence of true Christianity above all other religions that have ever been heard of in the world. That the persuasion of a divine providence, and a future state of rewards and punishments, is one of the strongest incitements to virtue, and one of the most forcible restraints from vice, can hardly be doubted of: And that public worship is necessary to support a general sense of religion, or of God’s providence, and a future state of rewards and punishments is very evident: Nor is it less so, that there can be no public worship without some received form and some established external rites: ’Tis as absurd to talk of public religious service without some settled manner and method of expressing or performing it, as to talk of languages without words. But what cult that ever obtained in the world under the notion of religion, except the Christian institution, when kept free or reformed from all the abominable corruptions with which it hath been and still is in some countries depraved, was not rather hurtful to society, than suited to the ends for which public religion is requisite to society? Or what can be pointed out on the one hand as wanting in true Christianity to make it a useful, a perfect public belief and worship; or on the other, as burdensom, superfluous, or liable to superstitious perversion? Christianity abounds with motives to encourage to virtue, and to deter from vice; nay none stronger can be added to them. And as its positive rites or ordinances are but few, so none can be imagined that are less liable to superstitious abuse? History will furnish frequent opportunities of illustrating and confirming these important observations to young students. And from the truths of natural religion and true morality, which it is the chief design of education to teach and inculcate, the transition to the doctrines and precepts of Christianity is very easy and natural: For as Christ himself, and all his apostles tell us, love must be the fulfilment of all divine laws, whether natural or revealed: These two commandments, saith Christ, love God with all your heart and all your soul, and love your neighbour as your self, are the sum of religion: Upon these two hang the law and the prophets. He that dwelleth in love, saith one apostle, dwelleth in God, for God is love: And charity, saith another, is the bond of perfectness, and endureth for ever. Christianity is indeed nothing else but the religion or law of nature carried to its utmost perfection. Christ came not to destroy, void or commute this eternal unchangeable law, but to compleat, to fulfil it, by rescuing it from the subtle evasions and distinctions with which it had been rendered a mere form of godliness by the Jewish casuists, without the power, the reality thereof, by pointing out its full spiritual extent; by shewing, in particular, that tho’ it is injustice alone, that civil courts can conveniently punish, and tho’, in a certain sense, justice is of anterior and more perfect obligation by the law of nature than benevolence, yet without benevolence reigning in the heart, and by consequence actuating the life, and keeping all other passions and appetites in due subordination to it, no man can be acceptable to God, or pleasing in his sight, God being perfect benevolence, guided by unerring wisdom in the exertions of his unbounded, uncontroulable power. Indeed, in respect of the stress Christianity lays on benevolence, it is Christ’s new and peculiar law.
In short, there is no moral or political truth, which a judicious reader of history with young people may not find frequent opportunity of explaining and confirming to them. And so much am I persuaded that we ought to be very well acquainted with facts or examples, before we are carried by our teachers to systems, that I think it were to be wished that even our systems of physiology begun with the facts or experiments, and ended with the doctrines, instead of formally laying down the truths to be proved, and then bringing experiments to prove them. The method we recommend in both philosophies would inure one from the beginning to the only true way of getting real knowledge, which is by searching into facts, without prepossession in favours of any particular hypothesis or system; a fatal obstacle to science, not yet entirely banished from amongst enquirers into nature, as clear as Lord Verulam hath long ago made it, and as generally confessed as it now is, that there is no other way of developing nature, or of learning rules of arts or of conduct from her, but by attending carefully, and without any biass to her operations and effects. Neither mechanical nor moral truths will yield to our fancy or caprice, but will remain inflexibly what they are, whatever we may imagine or dream them to be: And it is as absurd to think of executing moral ends, otherwise than by the means, and according to the order of nature’s appointment, as to think of working upon water, air, or any other body, in a way repugnant, or not suited to its properties and laws. Let youth therefore be inured to study mankind in real life or history, and be cautioned against attempting to form theories, whether of moral or natural things by the force of imagination, or otherwise than by endeavouring, by a close and accurate unbiassed scrutiny into facts, to find out the real qualities and laws of the Author of nature’s establishment, by which all his works are governed, each agreeably to its nature and kind. Be not afraid of shewing mankind to youth in the worst colours they have ever appeared. ’Tis long indeed since there was just ground for the Roman Satyrist’s complaint and exclamation.
Yet human nature is well constituted for society: There is no pleasure we are capable of, which does not some way lean or hearken to our kind, as our own admirable poet tells us.
The same Roman satyrist gives us, in the same satyr, a very true description of the social sense and propension, deeply interwoven with our frame and constitution.
As savage, ferocious, or cruel as men have, or may become, nothing is wanting in our frame to draw us to friendship and society, or impel us to compassion and benevolence. Even revenge itself is a social passion in its origin and rise, being nothing else but indignation roused by wrong or injury. Shew youth what a large share communication and participation have in all our enjoyments, or how largely all our pleasures partake of something relative to others. To be made for society is to be made for mutual giving and receiving. And the abilities and wants of men are so dispersed as to lay a necessary foundation for mutual assistance and intercourse. As it is the difference of products in different regions and climates that gave rise to external commerce, and makes it necessary; so universally in every district of mankind, men have different talents and powers, that they might mutually stand in need one of another, and have each something to give and something to receive.—Many united labours are necessary to make any one live tolerably happy in the world: And nothing gives pleasure or satisfaction to the human mind, equal to that which accompanies a sense of love and esteem, merited by well employed power.—Nature hath abundantly furnished mankind with the means of happiness, but hath left it to be their own purchase by united skilful industry: For industry is the purchaser of every good in life; but single industry can go but a very little way.—Finally, the equal regular circulation of happiness greatly depends upon the manner in which neighbourhoods or districts of men unite and confederate together for mutual relief, support and furtherance. Now this is to be made for society: And to what a noble height of happiness and grandeur do not well constituted and well regulated societies arise? Or what, in fine, is wanting to render any part of the earth happy, but good constitutions or orders equitably executed, i.e. good civil government? Nature, we may see, from the history of mankind in all ages of the world, hath laid a necessity of society in human nature, and pointed out by its lines the proper kind of it: For mankind are, and always have been an aristocracy, consisting of the few able to consult, debate and direct, and the many able to execute by their labour and strength; ever ready and willing to put and keep themselves under the direction of the former, while they consult and pursue the common good, but impatient of oppressive servitude, and prone to spurn and kick when they are despised or maletreated. History will afford opportunity of observing how the first governments were formed, and of attending to what may properly78 be called the generative principle of empire, the progress of industry and property. Readers of history can’t indeed be too often put in mind to observe how enlargement of, or changes in property, create, enlarge, fix, or change dominion.—But above all, let youth be taught to consider, that however much the regular distribution or circulation of human happiness must, in the nature of things, depend upon the constitution and administration of the political bodies into which men of the same regions coalesce; yet the best form of civil government is a lesson that cannot be learned without long experience, from many changes and revolutions in human affairs. Experience must precede every art, because it is experience alone that can lead to any art. But the art of government is at the same time the most important and the most difficult of all arts, or that which requires the longest previous experience and the profoundest thinking to compleat it; nor can it be otherwise: For arts must be difficult or remote from invention, in proportion as they are complex, and depend on the knowledge of many springs and causes. But what is more complex than the right formation and modelling of civil society, in order to gain and secure all the noble purposes of civil union? The political science can no more be perfected without long and attentive observation of human nature in various appearances and situations, than the theory of the moon, for instance, can be compleated, without long and careful attention to her revolutions and appearances. ’Tis no wonder, therefore, that it is so long before we see any thing in the history of the world approaching to a perfect form of civil government; especially, if we add to this the other consideration just mentioned, viz. That dominion will always be proportionable to property and vary with it. Let youth carefully attend to all the different forms of government that have ever been known in the world; their establishments, their changes and revolutions, the diseases they fell into, and their decays, ruins, or deaths; and hence let them form to themselves sure and solid maxims concerning civil polity.79 But let not the course of historical reading stop, till it comes gradually to modern times, and brings youth home into their own country, and shews them the various changes it has gone through, and explains to them its present constitution, laws and interests, and they are able to apply to it all the political truths and rules they had previously learned from more ancient histories. “It would be strange (says a most judicious author, whom we have often quoted in this essay)80 to suppose an English gentleman should be ignorant of the law of his country. This, whatever station he is in, is so requisite, that from a justice of the peace to a minister of state, I know no place he can well fill without it. I do not mean the chicane, or wrangling and captious part of the law: A gentleman whose business is to seek for the true measure of right and wrong, and not the arts how to avoid doing the one, and secure himself in doing the other, ought to be as far from such a study of the law, as he is diligently to apply himself to that wherein he may be serviceable to his country. And to that purpose, I think the right way for a gentleman to study our law, which he does not design for his calling, is, to take a view of our English constitution and government, in the ancient books of the common law; and some more modern writers, who out of them have given an account of this government. And having got a true idea of that, then to read our history, and with it join in every king’s reign the laws then made. This will give an insight into the reason of our statutes, and shew the true ground upon which they came to be made, and what weight they ought to have.” By careful instruction in true politics from ancient history, one will be soon prepared for reading the history of his own country with intelligence: Prepared for examining into the excellence or defects of its government, and for judging of the fitness or unfitness of its orders and laws. It is not so proper to begin with it, because one will better learn the true maxims of politics from distant histories, in reading which he is not in so much danger from any false biass or prejudice: And he will then proceed with far greater advantage to the study of his own country’s constitution, history and laws, when he hath got a measure or standard, the justness of which he is fully convinced of by repeated proofs and trials, to compare and judge them by.
But it is in vain to attempt pointing out all the noble lessons that may be best taught from history. Let me therefore only add once more, That the first and last, the great point to be aimed at from reading history with youth, is to fix upon their minds just notions of true worth, true greatness, and solid happiness; or to teach them to place merit where it only lies, not in birth, not in beauty, not in riches, not in external shew and magnificence, not in voluptuousness, but in a firm adherence to truth and rectitude or virtue; in an untainted heart, that would not pollute or prostitute its integrity in any degree, to gain the highest worldly honours, or to ward off the greatest worldly misery. This is true magnanimity: And he alone can be truly happy, as well as truly great, who can look down with generous contempt upon every thing that would tempt him to recede in the smallest degree from the paths of rigid honesty, candour and veracity.
The great lesson in life is, that virtue alone is true honour and solid durable happiness: It is not till this persuasion is deeply rooted in the heart, that one can be said to be well instructed, educated or formed. Our senses rush up fast to maturity, and their objects are ever assailing them. And therefore it is the business of education early to fortify and strengthen reason, that it may timeously be able to bear head against all the allurements of sense, all the specious promises and sollicitations of vice. But he alone can do so, who daily looks narrowly into his heart and life, and calls his appetites and conduct to a strict account, and seriously inculcates upon himself this lesson, which were it not true, ’tis indeed no great matter what else be true or false, That worth, merit and happiness are proportionable to one’s ability and disposition to do good. By ability, I mean not the external abilities which depend not upon us, but upon providence; but moral abilities, absolutely in our power to acquire, the ability of knowing what virtue or the public good requires, in whatsoever circumstances of life, and readiness and firmness to pursue it in our sphere, and to the utmost of our power, through whatever opposition, and in spite of whatever temptations from the side of pleasures, or whatever menaces and dangers. This lesson, in other words, amounts to this, That virtue is its own reward. By which saying is not understood, that virtue is to have no other reward but the pleasing consciousness of acting a worthy part that accompanies it here; no reward in another life: But that there are no satisfactions equal to, or comparable with virtuous or rational exercises; and that virtuous dispositions, or well improved moral powers, cannot be rewarded, cannot receive happiness or enjoyment suited, proportioned to their nature, but from their exercises and employments about proper objects: And that as virtue gives pleasure here in proportion to the improvements it makes, far beyond all that mere sense can yield, in the most advantageous circumstances of outward enjoyment; so in a state to come, it shall be so placed as its improvements require, i.e. be placed in circumstances that shall afford it business or employment proportioned to its capacity, and by means thereof the highest satisfaction. This is the only happiness a virtuous mind can imagine for itself, or fix its desires and hopes upon: All other enjoyments are low and mean in one’s view, in proportion to the strength and excellence of his virtue. And this is the happiness true philosophy and true religion promise to virtue: It is with this glorious hope it feeds, comforts and strengthens itself. In keeping the precepts of moral rectitude, the precepts of God, who is perfect virtue, there is a high present reward, that animates and supports virtue, as being a presage of the higher rewards awaiting it in another world, when it is become qualified by proper culture here, for higher employments there, or a more exalted sphere of activity. The glory that grace or virtue aspires, and only can aspire after, is grace or virtue made perfect, and suitably placed for exerting all its benignity and excellence. If this be not true, ’tis no matter what is, or is not truth; for unless this be true, religion, virtue, reason, public good and obligations to it, are empty names, and there is nothing truly desirable in existence: All nature is by the opposite opinion laid under a most horrible gloom, that men intoxicated by gross pleasures may forget, but that thinking will only increase and thicken. Let therefore the excellence of virtue, and the glorious hopes which virtue naturally calls up in every mind where it dwells, and gradually invigorates as itself grows and improves, be the subjects of the principal instructions given to youth. Nor will any one who is acquainted with the almost infinitely various ways in which this comfortable lesson hath been illustrated by ancient and modern writers, be afraid of surfeiting youth with it. In truth, the beauty of virtue never palls upon its admirers, but on the contrary, the more they consider and examine it, the more they see of its worth and truth: It gains approbation at its first appearance, but to discover all its charms and excellencies, requires deep and profound searching. And indeed all the ingenious arts, when they depart from or forsake virtue, become nauseous or insipid: It is in ministring to virtue, or setting forth her real beauty, that their dignity and value chiefly consists: Or rather, it is some just view of some part of the excellence of virtue, or of the deformity of vice, that makes what is called truly beautiful art, whether in writing or painting, or whatever other ingenious composition. Throughout all nature, and by consequence, throughout all the arts which imitate nature, virtue is the supreme beauty, the supreme charm. And therefore, let all the arts be called upon in education, to conspire in exhibiting the true beauty, which needs only be seen and known to be thoroughly and seriously admired and beloved. Some characters and actions of virtuous men we meet with in history, set forth the charms of integrity in their full lustre: And we must be very well acquainted with history, to be able to judge whether fiction be natural or not; but fiction, when it is probable, hath at least as much force as real history.
We have been recommending history as the best basis for building moral instructions upon, yet other arts, which can be rendered subservient to virtue, ought by no means to be neglected. And how proper fables (by which I would be understood to mean, not barely such Aesopic tales as are properly so called, but all fables, allegories, visions, every specious fiction, in short, by which any moral truth may be conveyed into the mind under the ingenious and agreeable semblance of aiming at nothing higher than mere amusement) are to attract the minds of youth, and gain their attention to useful instruction, the unanimous consent of the wisest instructors in all ages of the world, in the use of them, sufficiently demonstrates? In a collection of essays, which abounds with most excellent fables and allegories, this subject is thus discoursed of:82 “There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice. We look upon the man who gives it as offering an affront to our understanding, and treating us like children or ideots. We consider the instruction as an implicit censure, and the zeal which any one shews for our good on such an occasion as a piece of presumption or impertinence. The truth of it is, the person who pretends to advise, does in that particular exercise a superiority over us, and can have no other reason for it, but that in comparing us with himself, he thinks us defective, either in our conduct or our understanding. For these reasons, there is nothing so difficult as the art of making advice agreeable: And indeed all the writers, both ancient and modern, have distinguished themselves among one another, according to the perfection at which they have arrived in this art. How many devices have been made use of, to render this bitter portion palatable? Some convey their instructions to us in the best chosen words; others in the most harmonious numbers, some in points of wit, and others in short proverbs. But among all the different ways of giving counsel, I think the finest, and that which pleases the most universally is fable, in whatever shape it appears. If we consider this way of instructing or giving advice, it excels all others, because it is the least shocking, and the least subject to those exceptions which I have before mentioned. This will appear to us, if we reflect in the first place, that upon the reading of a fable we are made to believe we advise ourselves. We peruse the author for the sake of the story, and consider the precepts rather as our conclusions than his instructions. The moral insinuates itself imperceptibly; we are taught by surprize, and become wiser and better unawares. In short, by this method, a man is so far over-reached as to think he is directing himself, while he is following the dictates of another, and consequently is not sensible of that which is the most unpleasing circumstance in advice. In the next place, if we look into human nature, we shall find that the mind is never so much pleased, as when she exerts herself in any action that gives her an idea of her own perfections and abilities. This natural pride and ambition of the soul is very much gratified in the reading of a fable: For in writings of this kind, the reader comes in for half of the performance; every thing appears to him like a discovery of his own; he is busied all the while in applying characters and circumstances, and is in this respect both a reader and a composer. It is no wonder therefore, that on such occasions, when the mind is thus pleased with itself, and amused with its own discovery, that it is highly delighted with the writing which is the occasion of it. This oblique manner of giving advice is so inoffensive, that if we look into ancient histories, we find the wise men of old very often chose to give counsel to their kings in fables: Fables were indeed the first pieces of wit that made their appearance in the world, and have been still highly valued, not only in times of the greatest simplicity, but among the polite ages of mankind. Jotham’s fable of the trees is the oldest that is extant, and as beautiful as any that have been made since that time. Nathan’s fable of the poor man and his lamb is likewise more ancient than any that is extant, besides the above mentioned, and had so good an effect, as to convey instruction to the ear of a king without offending it, and to bring the man after God’s own heart to a right sense of his guilt and his duty. We find Aesop in the most distant ages of Greece; and if we look into the very beginnings of the commonwealth of Rome, we see a mutiny among the common people appeased by a fable of the belly and the limbs, which was indeed very proper to gain the attention of an incensed rabble, at a time, when perhaps they would have torn to pieces any man who had preached the same doctrine to them in an open and direct manner. As fables took their birth in the very infancy of learning, they never flourished more than when learning was at its greatest height. To justify this assertion, I shall put my readers in mind of Horace, the greatest wit and critic in the Augustan age; and of Boileau, the most correct poet among the moderns; not to mention La Fontaine, who by this way of writing, is come more into vogue than any other author of our times. The fables I have here mentioned, are raised altogether upon brutes and vegetables, with some of our own species mix’d among them, when the moral hath so required. But besides this kind of fable, there is another in which the actors are passions, virtues, vices, and other imaginary persons of the like nature. Some of the ancient critics will have it, that the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer are fables of this nature; and that the several names of Gods and heroes are nothing else but the affections of the mind in a visible shape and character. Thus they tell us, that Achilles, in the first iliad represents anger, or the irascible part of human nature. That upon drawing his sword against his superior in a full assembly, Pallas is only a name for reason, which checks and advises him upon that occasion; and at first appearance touches him upon the head, that part of the man being looked upon as the seat of reason. And thus of the rest of the poem. As for the Odyssey, I think it is plain that Horace considered it as one of these allegorical fables, by the moral which he has given us of several parts of it. The greatest Italian wits have applied themselves to the writing of this latter kind of fables: As Spencer’s Fairy Queen is one continued series of them from the beginning to the end of that admirable work. If we look into the finest prose authors of antiquity, such as Cicero, Plato, Xenophon, and many others, we shall likewise find, that this was their favourite kind of fable. I shall only observe farther upon it, that the first of this sort that made any considerable figure in the world, was that of Hercules meeting with pleasure and virtue; which was invented by Prodicus, who lived before Socrates, and in the first dawnings of philosophy. He used to travel through Greece by virtue of this fable, which procured him a kind reception in all the market-towns, where he never failed telling it, as soon as he had gathered an audience about him.” To these recommendations of fables, as one of the best means of insinuating moral lessons agreeably into the minds of all, the young more especially, I have nothing to add; but that the politest of writers, Horace himself, never pleases so much, or conveys his lesson or reproof either more agreeably, or more forcibly, than when he introduces a fable, tale or story. And there is indeed no moral truth, even the most abstract, nor no moral counsel or reproof that may not be conveyed in this elegant manner of instruction. Those therefore who are concerned in the education of youth, ought to make themselves acquainted with all the best fables by which ancients or moderns have illustrated moral truths; and to exercise their wit in contriving or inventing proper ones, that they may have always at hand some apposite fable to confirm and set off any truth they would impress upon young minds, but chiefly for conveying their admonitions and reproofs in the least provoking, and, consequently, the most successful manner: A preceptor skilled in this art, would seldom or never be obliged to reprimand in the austerer way; and would be able to render all his lessons equally pleasing and instructive.
And this leads to observe, that teachers of youth must not trust entirely to their grave and formal lectures, but take frequent opportunities of instructing their pupils by conversation, by entertaining them sometimes with a fable, and sometimes with a piece of real history; by leading them to ask questions, and by guiding them to the discovery of truth, in the Socratic way, by acting the midwife to their thoughts, as Socrates himself called his manner of instructing, by a series of questions issuing naturally one from another, till the truth to be confirmed shewed itself, as it were, of its own accord, to the person instructed, or rather till he was brought as it were to start it himself, and then seize it as his own discovery. We are indeed at a great deal of pains to load the memories of youth; but very little is done to exercise their judgments or inventions: And yet it is by suitable exercises only, that judgment or invention, as well as memory, can be quickened or strengthened. Youth, whatever science they are taught, ought to be inured to speak out what they have learned, not by rote, in consequence of servilely mandating what they have read, but easily and in their own words, from their judgments and not from their memories. They ought also to be practised in resolving questions belonging to the science they are learning, for the solution of which they have already laid up sufficient data: This ought universally to be the practice of masters in teaching all the sciences, mathematics, natural philosophy, or morals and politics; in teaching the latter more particularly: For here it is of great moment, that youth be early able to judge both quickly and solidly concerning right and wrong, just and unjust: But to this perfection in the moral science they can never attain by the help of general rules alone, without practice in pronouncing concerning characters and actions, and in determining particular cases.83 In order to qualify masters for all these methods of teaching; and more particularly, for instructing by familiar conversation, they ought to be close studiers of the Socratic dialogues, that are preserved to us by the disciples of that great master, from whom all the different families or sects of ancient philosophers sprung, as all the different species or forms of poetry did from the first father of that art Homer; those particularly which Xenophon hath transmitted to us with his inimitable simplicity. No method certainly is so proper, whether for instruction in truth, or for refuting error, and disentangling from prejudices and difficulties. It is not so properly instruction, as the art of leading to truth, and enabling one to instruct himself. Never was a philosopher or teacher so much followed and beloved: Never were lessons so greedily attended to and sought after as his; and never had any mere man more success in recommending and teaching virtue and true knowledge than Socrates, as is plain from his history: And this is an irrefragable argument of the peculiar excellence of that method of instructing or reproving, which takes its name from him who was the first inventer, or at least made the greatest use of it. And in all probability, one of the chief reasons why schools and lectures so soon disgust youth in modern times, at all that bears the name of erudition or scholarship is, that masters seldom or never descend from their austere magisterial manner, into the familiar way of conference, but rather affect to banish from philosophy, as too sprightly and gay, all the arts of illustrating and sweetening moral lessons by fables, allegories, and other such ingenious and agreeable embellishments, with which we find the best ancient sages, Socrates in particular, ever adorning and begaying, so to speak, their lectures. But we need not insist longer upon explaining or recommending instruction in the Socratic way: Its nature and excellence can only be understood by examples; and a little acquaintance with the authors above mentioned, will soon satisfy every thinking person, that tho’ it be an art that cannot easily be acquired, yet some degree of dexterity in it is absolutely necessary to qualify for the knack of rendering teaching agreeable: And that without having frequent recourse to it, ’tis hardly possible to improve the invention or imagination of youth.
Before I leave this article, in which teaching youth from history hath been so earnestly urged, it is proper to take notice, That history will afford the properest occasions of explaining to young people ancient customs and rites, civil, political or religious, and consequently, all that is commonly called antiquity; and of pointing out to them, in good prints, at least, all the remains of ancient sculpture or painting, that preserve representations of them to us: ’Tis in historical lessons, as usages of these kinds happen to be mentioned in history, that coins, pictures, statues, bas-reliefs, &c. properly have their place; the chief use of them being, either to confirm history, or to give us clear representations of customs that can hardly be fully understood from mere verbal descriptions; and to shew, at the same time, the progress and decline of these very ingenious and useful arts themselves. Nothing can be more dry than a course of lectures upon antiquities, without such monuments before the teachers and scholars: And a regular course of antiquities, even with such proper helps, cannot be so entertaining, or be so well retained, as when customs and manners are taken notice of, just as they occur in history, and are then explained from the coins or other monuments, which exhibit them to our eyes. Thus things succeed or mix as they ought; and the one serves at the same time to diversify and to enlighten the other.
It is the same, in a great measure, likewise with respect to rhetoric. ’Tis by pointing out to youth the beauty of sentiments and of expressions, and of order and arrangement in the charming speeches that we meet with in ancient historians, and by inuring them to translate, imitate, and repeat them, that the art of speaking, and a just notion of oratory is best taught: And by frequent lessoning and practice of this kind, they will soon be prepared for examining, or tracing to their foundations in human nature, and in order and harmony, all the rules and precepts of oratory: All the rules concerning stating and unfolding the truth or fact to be confirmed, and concerning proving and establishing it, or concerning refuting the contrary opinions and suppositions, and amplifying and enlarging the point to be proved and enforced, and working up and interesting the passions of the hearers in favour of what we would recommend to them or persuade them of. Rules are best understood, when examples that confirm them and point out their fitness or necessity, naturally lead one, as it were by the hand, to take notice of them. One who is persuaded and moved by a speech, and heartily admires its force and beauty, will with pleasure enter into a critical examination of its excellencies; and willingly lay up in his mind the rules of rhetoric such an example of eloquence plainly suggests. But to teach rules abstractly, or without examples, and before the agreeable effects the observance of them tends to produce, which are in reality their reason or foundation, have been felt, is exceeding preposterous. It is here as it is in natural philosophy, after we are well acquainted with causes, having been led to them by their effects, we may compute what their influences or effects would be in given circumstances, or how they should be applied, and how they would operate: But we must begin with effects, and learn causes and rules or general laws from particular specimens or examples of them, i.e. in short, we must first be very well acquainted with effects before we can understand causes, or their applications, and draw any conclusions from them. The case is the same both in natural philosophy and rhetorick. For what are general rules of rhetorick, but rules collected from effects, for gaining certain effects upon the mind. But it is by means of specimens only that rules can be shewn to be fit means for accomplishing such or such ends; nor could they ever have been known to have been fit rules, were not certain effects resolvable into them: In other words, ’tis only by analyzing effects into them, that they can be demonstrated to be good or true rules, in much the same manner as it is by reducing effects in nature into a cause or law that accounts for them, by which alone certain other phaenomena can be accounted for, that we can only collect with any certainty the general laws of nature, whether for the explication of natural appearances, or for the direction of mechanical arts.
Another reason for making history, and the truths it affords, proper occasions of explaining and confirming a principal branch of education is, that as such reading will take in the progress of all arts and sciences, and give opportunity of discoursing of their rise, improvement, and uses, it must prove a very proper means of trying different genius’s, and exciting them to disclose and shew themselves. The instructor will by this means have an opportunity of observing what kind of observations, or what kind of arts, most strike some, and what others. For the natural biasses of minds towards particular studies and pursuits, want but invitations to bring them forth, and make them declare themselves, and cannot appear ’till they are properly tried. While education proceeds in one beaten uniform rout, it is impossible to discover different talents or turns of pupils; tho’, in all probability, each mind hath a particular one; because as affections so genius never puts itself forth, till its proper objects call upon it. There is a book written by Juan Huartes, a Spanish physician, entitled, Examen de ingenios, wherein he lays it down as one of his first positions, that nothing but nature can qualify a man for learning; and that without a proper temperament for the particular art or science which he studies, his utmost pains and application, assisted by the ablest masters, will be to no purpose.84 He illustrates this by the example of Tully’s son Marcus. Cicero, in order to accomplish his son in that sort of learning which he designed him for, sent him to Athens, the most celebrated academy at that time in the world, and where a vast concourse, out of the most polite nations, could not but furnish the young gentleman with a multitude of great examples, and accidents that might have insensibly instructed him in his designed studies: He placed him under the care of Cratippus, who was one of the greatest philosophers of the age, and he himself composed books on purpose for his use. But notwithstanding all this care, history gives us no great character of Marcus; nature (who it seems was even with the son for her prodigality to the father) rendered him incapable of improving, by all the rules of eloquence, the precepts of philosophy, his own endeavours, and the most refined conversation in Athens. This author therefore proposes, that there should be certain triers or examiners appointed by the state to inspect the genius of every particular boy, and to allot him the part that is most suitable to his natural talents. To confirm this, he adds, that Plato, in one of his dialogues, tells us, that Socrates, who was the son of a midwife, used to say, that as his mother, tho’ she was very skilful in her profession, could not deliver a woman, unless she was first with child, so neither could he himself raise knowledge out of a mind, where nature had not planted it. Accordingly, the method the philosopher took of instructing his scholars by several interrogations or questions, was only helping the birth, and bringing their own thoughts to light. The Spanish doctor abovementioned, as his speculations grow more refined, asserts, that every kind of temperament has a particular science corresponding to it, and in which alone it can be truly excellent. As to those genius’s, which may seem to have an equal aptitude for several things, he regards them as so many unfinished pieces of nature, wrought off in haste. An excellent writer of our own, after quoting these remarks from the Spaniard, adds the following reflexions. “There are indeed but very few to whom nature has been so unkind, that they are not capable of shining in some science or other. There is a certain bent towards knowledge in every mind, which may be strengthened and improved by proper application. The story of Clavius is very well known: He was entered in a college of Jesuits, and after having been tried at several parts of learning, was upon the point of being dismissed as an hopeless blockhead, till one of the fathers took it into his head to make an essay of his parts in geometry, which, it seems, hit his genius so luckily, that he afterwards became one of the greatest mathematicians of the age. It is commonly thought, that the sagacity of these fathers in discovering the talents of a young student, has not a little contributed to the figure which their order has made in the world. How different, continues the same author, from this manner of education, is that which prevails in our own country? Where nothing is more usual than to see forty or fifty boys of several ages, tempers and inclinations, ranged together in the same class, employed upon the same authors, and enjoined in the same tasks? Whatever their natural genius may be, they are all to be made poets, historians, and orators alike. They are all obliged to have the same capacity; to bring in the same tale of verse, and to furnish out the same portion of prose. Every boy is bound to have as good a memory as the captain of the form. To be brief, instead of adapting studies to the particular genius of a youth, we expect from the young man, that he should adapt his genius to his studies. This I must confess, is not so much to be imputed to the instructor, as to the parent, who will never be brought to believe, that his son is not capable of performing as much as his neighbour’s, and that he may not make him whatever he has a mind to.” After which this author adds: “If the present age is more laudable than those which have gone before us in any single particular, it is in that generous care which several well disposed persons have taken in the education of poor children; and as in these charity schools, there is no place left for the overweaning fondness of a parent, the directors of them would make them beneficial to the public, if they considered the precept which I have been thus long inculcating. They might easily, by well-examining the parts of those under their inspection, make a just distribution of them into proper classes and divisions, and allot to them this or that particular study, as their genius qualifies them for professions, trades, handicrafts, or service by sea and land.”
Education in our schools is too narrow and confined, and therefore not at all calculated for this very important purpose to society; early to discover different genius’s, in order to give to each betimes its proper improvements. All with us are educated in the same manner; a few classics is all they see or hear of, except it be a little of arithmetic and a little dancing: How therefore can masters discern different turns and abilities of youth? What is done to draw out each particular genius and make it shew and exert itself? Yet at a very small cost to the public, this very momentous end might be gained, by furnishing our schools, as the Instituto at Bologna is, by the care and direction of the Count Marsigli, and originally at his private expence. There are in that academy schools or apartments for all the sciences, properly adorned or rather fitly furnished. The chamber of painting and sculpture is replenished with antique busts and statues, some good pictures, and many very good drawings and prints; the mechanical chamber, with models of engines of various sorts; the chamber of mathematics and fortification, with maps and models of fortified towns, and with the more necessary pieces of artillery and instruments of war; the astronomical school with telescopes, globes, quadrants, and other proper utensils for observing the heavenly bodies: And there is a large gallery furnished with minerals, metals, fossils, plants, flowers, and other natural curiosities, so elegantly and properly disposed, that by visiting this apartment now and then with attention, one can hardly fail of becoming pretty well acquainted, in a little time with natural history: There are masters for the learned languages: and lectures are given upon drawing, fortification, all the parts of mathematics, and upon mechanics and the other sciences, at such regular well distributed hours, that all the students may attend them, without neglecting their language-lessons. Now, in schools or colleges thus furnished, there would be proper means for employing geniuses, and alluring them to appear and exert themselves: But even where that is not, or cannot be done, reading history with youth in such a manner as to take every proper occasion to discourse of every science and art, its end, use, origin, progress, and improvement, would in a great measure serve this momentous purpose of schools and education, viz. finding out early the natural bent, genius, and talents of youth, in order to cultivate and improve them to the best advantage, and avoid forcing nature, as must happen when education is carried on in the same beaten uniform train, without any proper attempts to discern natural geniuses, or to suit education to them. And in truth, the same methods which are necessary to gain this end, are of admirable use to enlarge and open every mind: It is true, one in order to be useful in life, ought to apply himself to one study, business or profession chiefly, and to choose that for which nature has best disposed and qualified him: But before one betakes himself to any of the more liberal professions for life, it is very fit that he should have had a very large view of men and things, and have, for that effect, been assisted in looking with intelligence into many arts and sciences: So much ought one to know of all, in order to succeed in any one well, as is necessary to give him a view of the strict union, connexion, and dependance of all the sciences, and enable him to discern what helps and assistances any one of them may, or rather must derive from the rest. And indeed there is no other remedy or antidote against the narrowness, stiffness, and pedantry which are so often complained of by men of large and liberal minds, as accompanying, more or less, all the learned professions; but this more enlarged institution in the public schools, or under private tutors, we are now recommending. We have already had occasion to observe the good effects of it amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans. And may we not appeal to experience, and ask what it is that forms or produces the truly liberal scholar, the man of thorough good taste and equal politeness, the large, open-minded, easy, as well as knowing and learned gentleman, no less fit for public business than for private company, equally useful and entertaining and agreeable wherever he is, or about whatever he is employed.—What else is it but extensive large views, deep insight into men, comprehensive knowledge of the world, and such an acquaintance with all human affairs and arts, as preserves him on every occasion from embarassment, being sufficient, at least, to direct him into the proper train of informing himself more fully concerning whatever occurs.—And to what else can this perfection be owing; or how else can it be brought about, but by an education which leads one in a natural proper order through all human affairs; and instead of confining him to one narrow spot, teaches him to extend and widen his views, and gather in acquaintance with every part of nature, by looking with attention into the methods of carrying on every study or science, and into its chief discoveries and improvements. This may at first sight appear cutting out a task for education that is more than enough for human life. But every seeming difficulty, every objection against the manner of education which hath been inculcated in this chapter, will immediately evanish, if one will but consider that there are but two subjects of human enquiry or real knowledge; the laws or order of the material world, and human nature, which two have a very near, a very intimate connexion: And all therefore that is required to render education full and complete, is to divide the time of youth between these two; every other study besides, as we shall see more fully afterwards, comes properly under the notion of languages, or arts of expressing or communicating knowledge. Now, if youth went from schools or tutors well acquainted with these two sciences, what study, what profession or business would they not be at least well prepared to pursue by themselves, in a manner that could not fail of success? But on the other hand, while they are ignorant of these sciences, however full their heads may be crammed with words and terms of art, what are they fit to do, or apply to of any use to mankind, of any relation to society or real life? Suppose them masters of several grammars, capable of construing readily several books of different languages, and of giving English words or phrases for every word or phrase in the abstrusest Latin or Greek authors, yet if they have no notion of natural philosophy, no notion of the method of cultivating that science, and of the uses that have and may be made of it for the extention and enlargement of human power, and are utter strangers to moral philosophy, to human nature, and human rights and duties, for what service to society are they prepared; what science are they capable by themselves to pursue; into the elements or first principles of what profession are they yet initiated; or can they as yet be said to have only so much as a tolerable notion of any of the enquiries which best befit and most concern mankind; any idea of what is most worth our knowing, or most worth our pursuing? In fine, what authors in any language really worthy of our study are they qualified to enter into and understand? For books absolutely remote from these subjects, what are they at best but innocent amusements? And to understand books which have any relation to the order of nature, or to human affairs, more instruction surely is necessary than merely instruction in words or grammars? It was undoubtedly owing to the large and rational education of the Greeks in their better days, that their great men made so shining a figure in various capacities and situations, and that in the very beginning of what is called manhood: It could have been owing to nothing else; and to this alone do historians ascribe it. And indeed what advantages the Grecian youth had for opening, enlarging, and strengthening their minds betimes with extensive knowledge, not only by means of their schools, in which all the arts and sciences were taught them, and words were far from being their only employment, but in another way, quite unknown in modern times, is well worth our observation. Plutarch divides the life of statesmen into three ages. In the first he would have them learn the principles of morality and government; in the second reduce them to practice in the actual service of their country; and in the third instruct others. He applies, on this occasion, the custom used in Rome, where the vestals spent the first ten years in learning their office, and this was a kind of novicate; the next ten years they employed in the exercise of their functions; and the last ten in instructing the young novices in them. Now this is not so much a description of the duty of good citizens, or men capable of serving their country in the more important offices of society, as it is a real and true account of the manner in which the ancient Greeks divided their lives in the best times of that renowned country. For thus did Aristides and other great men in and about his time lay themselves out. Aristides, says Plutarch, was not always in office, but was always useful to his country. For his house was a public school of virtue, wisdom and policy. It was open to all young Athenians who were lovers of virtue, and these used to consult him as an oracle. He gave them the kindest reception, heard them with patience, instructed them with familiarity, and endeavoured, above all things, to animate their courage and inspire them with confidence. It is observed particularly, that Cimon, afterwards so famous, was obliged to him for this important service. This was also the practice at Rome in the best days of that republic, as hath been already remarked in the short account we have given, from a very good author, of Cicero’s education. And who will not own, that it would be of great advantage to a state, if those who excel in professions of every kind, would take pleasure, and make it their duty to fashion and instruct such youths as are remarkable for the pregnancy of their parts and goodness of disposition? They would thereby have an opportunity of serving their country even after their death, and of perpetuating in it, in the person of their pupils, a taste and inclination for true merit, and the practice of the wisest maxims.
[63. ]Hist. lib. 4. circa initium. [Tacitus, Histories, 4.5: “In his early youth Helvidius devoted his extraordinary talents to the higher studies, not as most youths do, in order to cloak a useless leisure with a pretentious name, but that he might enter public life better fortified against the chances of fortune. He followed those teachers of philosophy who count only those things ‘good’ which are morally right and only those things ‘evil’ which are base, and who reckon power, high birth, and everything else that is beyond the control of the will as neither good nor bad” (Loeb translation by Clifford H. Moore).]
[64. ][Lucan, The Civil War, 2.380–83, 389–91: “Such was the character, such the inflexible rule of austere Cato—to observe moderation and hold fast the limit, to follow nature, to give his life for his country, to believe that he was born to serve the whole world and not himself … he worshipped justice and practiced uncompromising virtue; he reserved his kindness for the whole people; and there was no act of Cato’s life where selfish pleasure crept in and claimed a share” (Loeb translation by J. D. Duff).]
[65. ][Turnbull is paraphrasing Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, esp. 2.21.]
[66. ][Horace, Epistles, 1.2.55: “pleasure bought with pain is harmful.”]
[67. ][Shaftesbury, Characteristicks, III:99.]
[68. ][Isaac Newton, Opticks, bk. III, pt. I (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica Great Books, 1952), 528–29.]
[69. ]Principles of moral philosophy.
[70. ]Heineccius’s methodical system of the laws of nature and nations, englished by Dr. Turnbull, with remarks added by the translator, and a discourse on the origin and spirit of moral and civil laws. [J. G. Heineccius, A Methodical System of Universal Law, trans. George Turnbull, 2 vols. (London: Noon, 1741).]
[71. ][Jacques Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704). Turnbull had in mind his Discours sur l’histoire universelle more than his other theological and historical works.]
[72. ][Scipio’s reflections upon the defeat of Carthage, repeated throughout the eighteenth century, were originally taken from Polybius, The Histories, bk. 39.]
[73. ][Alexander Pope, trans., The Iliad, bk. 4, line 164.]
[74. ]My lord Verulam calls this science, philosophia prima & universalis, primary and universal philosophy; and from him may we learn the nature and use of it, and the way of improving, carrying it on, and applying it to the other sciences. [Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, 2.3.1.]
[75. ]See a philosophical enquiry into the connexion between the works and doctrines of Jesus Christ, by G. T. LL. D. [George Turnbull, A Philosophical Enquiry Concerning the Connexion Betwixt the Doctrines and Miracles of Jesus Christ (London: Willock, 1731).]
[76. ][Juvenal, Satires, 15.159–66: “But in these days there is more amity among serpents than among men; wild beasts are merciful to beasts spotted like themselves. When did the stronger lion ever take the life of the weaker? In what wood did a boar ever breathe his last under the tusks of a boar bigger than himself? The fierce tigress of India dwells in perpetual peace with her fellow; grim bears live in harmony with bears. But man finds it all too little to have forged the deadly blade on an impious anvil.”]
[77. ][Juvenal, Satires, 15.131–58: “When Nature gave tears to man, she proclaimed that he was tender-hearted; and tenderness is the best quality in man. She therefore bids us weep for the misery of a friend upon his trial, or when a ward whose streaming cheeks and girlish locks raise a doubt as to his sex brings a defrauder into court. It is at Nature’s behest that we weep when we meet the bier of a full-grown maiden, or when the earth closes over a babe too young for the funeral pyre. For what good man, what man worthy of the mystic torch, and such as the priest of Ceres would wish him to be, believes that any human woes concern him not? It is this that separates us from the dumb herd; and it is for this that we alone have had allotted to us a nature worthy of reverence, capable of divine things, fit to acquire and practice the arts of life, and that we have drawn from on high that gift of feeling which is lacking to the beasts that grovel with eyes upon the ground. To them in the beginning of the world our common maker gave only life; to us he gave souls as well, that fellow-feeling might bid us ask or proffer aid, gather scattered dwellers into a people, desert the primeval groves and woods inhabited by our forefathers, build houses for ourselves, with others adjacent to our own, that a neighbour’s threshold, from the confidence that comes of union, might give us peaceful slumbers; shield with arms a fallen citizen, or one staggering from a grievous wound, give battle signals by a common trumpet, and seek protection inside the same city walls, and behind gates fastened by a single key.”]
[78. ]Property is the natural foundation of power, as wisdom and virtue are of authority. Hence the natural foundation of every civil government is laid in the distribution of the lands or territories belonging to it, to the several members of it. If the prince is proprietor of the lands, as in some eastern governments, such princes will be absolute; for all who hold the lands, holding them of the prince, and enjoying them at his will and pleasure, are so subject to his will, that they are in a condition of slaves, not of free subjects. They hang on him by the teeth. If the property is divided among a few men, the rest holding of them, and under them as vassals, the power of government will be in the hands of those few men, as a nobility, whatever authority may be lodged in the hands of one or more persons, for the sake of unity in counsel and action: But if the property be generally divided near equally among all the members of the society, the true power of such government will naturally be in all the members of that society, whatever form of union they may have, for the direction of the whole as a political body. See this political truth of great moment and extent fully confirmed and illustrated by historical examples in Mr. Harrington’s Oceana, and his other political tracts. See likewise a most ingenious dissertation by Mr. Lowman on the civil government of the Hebrews, and Turnbull’s remarks upon the chapters about government, in Heineccius’s system of the laws of nature and nations.
[79. ]’Tis a usual piece of vanity (says a very ingenious writer) in the historians of every nation to represent the original constitutions of their respective states, as founded on deep laid systems and plans of policy, in which they imagine that they discover the utmost reach of human wisdom; whereas in truth they are often the effects of downright chance, and produced by the force of certain circumstances, or the simple dictates of nature itself, out of a regard to some present expediency, and with little providence to the future. Such was the original of the celebrated Gothic government, that was formerly spread all over Europe, and tho’ much defaced by time, is still distinguishable here (Britain): Let not this important observation which history abundantly confirms, be overlooked.
[80. ][Locke, Education, §187.]
[81. ][Persius, Satires, 5.109–22: “Are you moderate in your desires, modest in your establishment, and kindly to your friends? Can you now close your granaries, and now again throw them open? Can you pass by a coin sticking in the mud, without gulping down your saliva in your greed for treasure? When you can truly say, ‘Yes, all these things are mine,’ I will call you a free and a wise man, under the favour of praetors and of Jupiter; but if, after having been but a little ago of the same stuff as ourselves, you hold to your old skin, and though your brow be smooth, still keep a crafty fox in that vapid heart of yours, I take back what I have just granted you and pull in my rope. Not one point has reason granted you; put out your finger (and what can be a slighter thing than that?) and you go wrong: not all the incense in the world will win leave from the Gods that one short half-ounce of wisdom may find lodgment in the head of a fool! To mingle the two things is sacrilege.”]
[82. ][Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, The Spectator, nos. 512 and 183.]
[83. ]’Tis worth while to copy here what is said upon this important part of education, Spectator 337. [The third in a series of four letters on education (along with nos. 307, 313, and 353) written to The Spectator by Eustace Budgell.] If I had not been hindered by some extraordinary business, I should have sent you sooner my farther thoughts upon education. You may please to remember, that in my last letter, I endeavoured to give the best reasons that could be urged in favour of a private or public education. Upon the whole, it may perhaps be thought that I seemed rather inclined to the latter, tho’ at the same time, I confessed that virtue, which ought to be our first and principal care, was more usually acquired in the former. I intend therefore in this letter to offer at methods, by which I conceive boys might be made to improve in virtue, as they advance in letters. I know that in most of our public schools, vice is punished and discouraged, whenever it is found out; but this is far from being sufficient, unless our youth are at the same time taught to form a right judgment of things, and to know what is properly virtue. To this end, whenever they read the lives and actions of such men as have been famous in their generation, it should not be thought enough to make them barely understand so many Greek or Latin Sentences, but they should be asked their opinion of such an action or saying, and obliged to give their reasons why they take it to be good or bad. By this means they would insensibly arrive at proper notions of courage, temperance, honour and justice. There must be great care taken, how the example of any particular person is recommended to them in gross; instead of which they ought to be taught, wherein such a man, tho’ great in some respects, was weak and faulty in others. For want of this Caution, a boy is often so dazled with the lustre of a great character, that he confounds its beauty with its blemishes, and looks even upon the faulty part of it with an eye of admiration. I have often wondered how Alexander, who was naturally of a generous and merciful disposition, came to be guilty of so barbarous an action as that of dragging the governor of a town after his chariot. I know this is generally ascribed to his passion for Homer; but I lately met with a passage in Plutarch, which, if I am not very much mistaken, still gives us a clearer light into the motives of this action. Plutarch tells us, that Alexander in his youth had a master named Lysimachus, who, tho’ he was a man destitute of all politeness, ingratiated himself both with Philip and his pupil, and became the second man at court, by calling the king Peleus, the Prince Achilles, and himself Phaenix. It is no wonder if Alexander having been thus used not only to admire, but to personate Achilles, should think it glorious to imitate him in this piece of cruelty and extravagance. To carry this thought yet further, I shall submit it to your consideration, whether instead of a theme, or copy of verses, which are the usual exercises, as they are called in the school phrase, it would not be more proper that a boy should be tasked once or twice a week to write down his opinion of such persons and things as occur to him in reading; that he should descant upon the actions of Turnus and Aeneas, shew wherein they excelled, or were defective, censure or approve any particular action, observe how it might have been carried to a greater degree of perfection, and how it exceeded or fell short of another. He might at the same time mark what was moral in any speech, and how far it agreed with the character of the person speaking. This exercise would soon strengthen his judgment in what is blameable or praiseworthy, and give him an early seasoning of morality. Next to those examples which may be met with in books, I very much approve Horace’s way of setting before youth the infamous or honourable characters of their contemporaries. That poet tells us, this was the method his father made use of to incline him to any particular virtue, or give him an aversion to any particular vice, &c. Xenophon’s schools of equity, in his life of Cyrus the great, are sufficiently famous: He tells us, that the Persian children went to school, and employed their time as diligently in learning the principles of justice and sobriety, as the youth in other countries did to acquire the most difficult arts and sciences, &c. The method which Apuleius tells us the Indian Gymnosophists took to educate their disciples is still more curious and remarkable. His words are as follow: “When their dinner is ready, before it is served up, the masters enquire of every particular scholar how he has employed his time since sun-rising: Some of them answer, that having been chosen as arbiters between two persons, they have composed their differences and made them friends; some that they have been executing the orders of their parents; and others, that they have either found out something new by their own application, or learn’d it from the instruction of their fellows. But if there happens to be any one among them, who cannot make it appear, that he has employed the morning to advantage, he is immediately excluded from the company, and obliged to work while the rest are at dinner.” It is not impossible, that from these several ways of producing virtue in the minds of boys, some general method might be invented. What I would endeavour to inculcate is, that our youth cannot be too soon taught the principles of virtue, seeing the first impressions which are made on the mind are always the strongest. The Archbishop of Cambray makes Telemachus say, that tho’ he was young in years, he was old in the art of knowing how to keep both his own and his friends secrets, &c. There is hardly any virtue which a lad might not early learn by practice and example. In short, nothing is more wanting to our public schools, than that the masters of them should use the same care in fashioning the manners of their scholars, as in forming their tongues to the learned languages. Wherever the former is omitted, I cannot help agreeing with Mr. Locke, That a man must have a very strange value for words, when preferring the languages of the Greeks and Romans to that which made them such brave men, he can think it worth while to hazard the innocence and virtue of his son for a little Greek and Latin.
[84. ][The quote found on p. 375 of this book, from “an excellent writer of our own” (The Spectator, no. 307), actually begins here.]