Page images


First Lesson in Studying History.

then they should, in our view, be conducted on a plan somewhat different from that which is usually adopted.

The best and most practical students in history we have ever known, had their attention first directed to this science, by tales of olden time,' related by parents, grand parents, and neighbors. Sometimes the work is begun with one event, sometimes with another. Perhaps the grandfather has been, at some time of his life, a soldier. Perhaps the father or the mother has visited Yorktown, or Saratoga, or Bunker Hill. Or a neighbor, who is a frequent visiter in the family—an aged person and a famous story-teller-has been a traveller, or fought battles, or read the history of wars and revolutions. Or, lastly, perhaps some spot in the neighborhood has a name which reminds us of important events in history; as Annawon's Rock,' Cornwallis' Cave,' - Washington Street, French Hill,' Dutch Point,' the Charter Oak,' &c. It is scarcely possible to live in New England, and not be reminded, in some such way, of the events of New England's history. The Indian names of towns, too, around us are sometimes preserved. Thus we were early told of Naugatuc, Quinnipic, Panthorn, Magunkum, &c.—the Indian names of places in the neighborhood.

Suppose a family resides in the neighborhood of a place called French Hill—and such a place and such facts as we are going to suppose, have existed. The name French Hill was applied to the place because a portion of the French troops, in the days of the American Revolution, once encamped on it. Now the natural course to be pursued is, to begin a familiar conversation with the child about French Hill, and introduce him gradually to a knowledge of the events connected with it. The child inquires, or may be led to inquire, who the French were ; where they were marching from when they encamped on French Hill; where they were going; who the general was ; how they were dressed; what finally became of them, &c. The conversation, without being forced, may be gradually extended by any ingenious parent or teacher who is himself a historian, to the principal events of the American Revolution; to the principal characters concerned in it; to the history of our country prior to the revolution ; and to the history of England. We shall also be led inadvertently, or rather imperceptibly, to the history of Lafayette and the French revolution and history. Then will follow, in a natural connection, the history of other nations ; for the history of no nation or country can be completely isolated, And thus, as we see, the topic, French Hill, may serve as the starting point—the nucleus-whence we proceed to the study of all history

History of the United States.


Something like this, we believe to be the true method of introducing all children to the study of this important branch of human science; and it is only on a plan which, if not like this, is at least natural like it, that we believe it possible to secure, in our pupils and children, the love of this study. It is only a course of familiar conversational instruction of this kind, moreover, that we deem worthy the name of preparatory history.

A thousand objections, we are aware, will be brought against the methods we here propose, of acquiring the keys to a knowledge of history. But many of these objections, after all, amount to little more than mere apologies for indolence, pleasure seeking, or money making. The greatest real, solid objection is the want of topics, as we have called them. For after all, it is not every family nor every school, that is familiar with a Charter Oak,' or indeed with any considerable clue to the Indian or the American history. There may be, here and there a family, of whom not a member has ever been inade familiar with any such starting point' at all. What, then, shall be done?

We have alluded to Lafayette, and to the characters concerned in the American revolution. Now every child has heard of Washington. Let him be told, then, of Washington. Let the father or the mother, or both of them, in their respective turns, relate anecdotes of that comparatively great and good man-of his childhood, of his youth, of bis maturer years, of his prudence, of his boldness, of his dangers, of his victories, of his hair breadth escapes, of his conduct as chief magistrate of the United States, and of his management of his farm at Mount Vernon. Let all this be done as soon, almost, as he is able to speak; and whenever he is able to read, let one of the best biographies of Washington be placed in his hands. Conversation or reading on the subject would inevitably lead any child, whose virgin curiosity had not been repressed by parental indifference and coldness, to make frequent inquiries; which should always be attended to. The parent should ever meet him more than half way; he should be constantly leading him, and not merely following him. For the discharge of this great duty, however, the mother, were she not, as too often is the case, the slave, either voluntarily or involuntarily, of fashion, would be most happily situated and adapted; but the father could also do much, at least as an assistant.

These childish inquiries, to which we have adverted, would lead, almost inevitably, to the more prominent events of the revolution; and if the mother were prepared in the manner it is highly desirable she should be for her task, might be made to involve the whole history of the United States. Then the history


History of other countries.

of the United States, involving, as it does necessarily, the history of Great Britain, France, Spain, &c. would lead gradually to the study of those countries—their history and their geography, for history and geography are hardly separable--and the study of the life of Washington leading to that of the life of Lafayette, would involve again, through him, a knowledge not only of the principal events, but of the principal actors of French history.

It is not indispensably necessary, by the way, to introduce the young child first to Washington. His name was merely referred to because he was so conspicuous an actor in a great and important drama. Other men, in whom a child happened to be interested, especially if they were, at the same time, the heroes of the story of the grandfather or oft-visiting neighbor, such as Gates, Greene, Marion, or even Arnold, might lead to the same results. In fact, there is hardly an individual, who figured so extensively in history, whose life, if properly and usefully written, would not include the history, for the time, of the country in which he lived and acted.

Nay, we have often thought, with others whose observation has been more extensive, and whose experience in teaching larger than our own, that all history would be best taught, not not only in the dawn of life but at every age, through the medium of biography. No man, for example, can understand well the biography of Washington, involved as it is with the events in which he was so deeply concerned, without understanding well the history of the United States; not merely during the life of Washington, but long before he was born, if not for some time after his death. And if an ingenious youth, in reading the life of Washington, does not obtain this sort of knowledge, it is either because the work is not properly written, or because he does not receive that kind of collateral instruction as he goes along, from parents or teachers, which is so indispensable. And the same might be said of the life of almost every other conspicuous man,

either in the United States or any other country. It is the actions of conspicuous men that make history; why then, should not a full and thorough knowledge of those actions render us historians ?

But we are not pleading, at the present time, for any but the younger classes of learners. These we do say—and must again insist upon it-should first be taught in the way we have described. Above all, we had alınost said more than all, but we mean not quite so much--they should, if possible, be blest with the • Tales of a Grandfather,' and the Simple Stories of a Mother's love. Not alone that series of tules peculiarly characterized by the title we have riven, for there are many grandfathers out

Natural Tendencies of Children.

107 of Scotland ; nor the stories of any mother who stands out remarkably distinguished from all others.

We believe that every grandfather has an abundance of stories laid up in the book of his long experience, which he sighs and suffers to relate, and which the grand child's whole nature is suffering for the want of; and which, unless some bond or medium of communication can be discovered, will soon be buried with the former in the grave. Now it is more blessed to give than to receive; but it is still exceedingly blessed to be the recipient of that which is truly valuable; and we do most heartily and fully believe, that while it would contribute most largely to the health and happiness-body and mind-of the aged to act thus the part of historians and guardians of the rising generation, the latter would still be benefited beyond the most enlarged conceptions of those whose opportunities for reflection on the tendencies of human nature have been but limited, by such a course of management as we have described.

But it is not a preparatory knowledge of history and geography alone to which every child should be led by this domestic college, with its array of natural presidents, professors and tutors -the grand parents, parents, brothers and sisters. A love for the elements of all useful knowledge should be acquired here; nor is there any reason, of weight, why it should not be so. No school out of the family—whether it bear the name of infant school, district school, academy, high school, college, or university-can ever be what it should be, till the teachers of this domestic, primary, and most indispensable of all colleges are prepared and disposed to do their duties, both preliminary and cooperative.


I have already told you how my friend Honestus manages to encourage in his children the love of observation and study.-I was going to sayinfuse into,' instead of 'encourage in,' and, such is the power of habit, that I actually wrote it so, but afterwards erased it. As much do I believe all children endowed by the God of nature with the love of observation and study, as I believe that two and two make four. I do not, indeed, suppose that all are precisely alike in this respect. I know better. Still I never yet found the child who was not fond of observation, as soon as he found himself in possession of eyes, ears, hands, &c.


Abuse of these Tendencies.

and could use them ; nor, until he had been spoiled,who was not fond even of hard study.

Here I know my sentiments may be a little novel. But in how many instances have I seen the young and unspoiled child as intensely engaged—and for as long a period, to him—in the examination of some new object, as a philosopher ! Does he not put it to the test, as it were, of the senses of taste, smell, &c. ? Does he not examine it, on every side, a thousand times over ? Does he not at last break it, to examine its character still more deeply? And unless we cry out against him, does not this new avenue to a knowledge of its interior, engage his attention for a long period ? Now what is all this but the incipient development of a love for study ?

I wish to see this love of observation and study perpetuated. I do not wish to make prodigies of children, by the pre nature study of books ; far enough from that. On the other hand, I do not believe those philosophers who tell us the brain must not be exercised till the child is six or seven years of age. The child's brain, for aught I can learn, is as well developed, and as fit for action as his lungs or his stomach ; and not more tender. Nay, both the philosophers and physiologists admit that the brain is developed quite in advance of the other organs. Why then, should its moderate use be more injurious than a moderate use of the stomach, or any other tender internal organ? Rather, I might ask, why should its moderate use--and I contend for no other-be more injurious than that immoderate use, or, as it should be called, abuse, of the stomach, which is every where witnessed ?

Need I stop here, to explain what I mean by abuses of the stomach ? Does not every rcader, who is a parent, know how apt parents are to over-feed their children, to feed them too often, and to feed them with improper substances- substances, I mean, which keep its tender lining meinbrane in an almost constant state of redness or half-inflammation-such as condiments, pastry, fat, coffee and tea?

If it is said that the constant abuse of the stomach, instead of justifying an abuse of other organs, especially the brain, only requires, on the contrary, that we should guard that organ with increased care, I grant it. Still I must insist, that both the stomach and the brain are made for action; that the healthy action and development of both require exercise ; and that the brain, developed as it always is, quite in advance of the stomach, permits and even requires more exercise, in proportion to the age, than the stomach. Nay, I see in this provision of the Creator, one of the most striking marks of his wisdom.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »