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self. The degree of reflection and observation, indeed, which is necessary for this purpose, cannot be expected from any one at a very early period of life, as these are the last powers of the mind which unfold themselves; but it is never too late to think of the improvement of our faculties ; and much progress may be made, in the art of applying them successfully to their proper objects, or in obviating the inconveniences resulting from their imperfection, not only in manhood, but in old age.
It is not, however, to the mistakes of our early instructors, that all our intellectual defects are to be ascribed. There is no profession or pursuit which has not habits peculiar to itself; and which does not leave some powers of the mind dormant, while it exercises and improves the rest. If we wish, therefore, to cultivate the mind to the extent of its capacity, we must not rest satisfied with that employment which its faculties receive from our particular situation in life. It is not in the awkward and professional form of a mechanic, who has strengthened particular muscles of his body by the habits of his trade, that we are to look for the perfection of our animal nature: neither is it among men of confined pursuits, whether speculative or active, that we are to expect to find the human mind in its highest state of cultivation. A variety of exercises is necessary to preserve the animal frame in vigour and beauty ; and a variety of those occupations which literature and science afford, added to a promiscuous intercourse with the world, in the habits of conversation and business, is no less necessary for the improve
ment of the understanding. I acknowledge, that there are some professions, in which a man of very confined acquisitions may arrive at the first eminence; and in which he will perhaps be the more likely to excel, the more he has concentrated the whole force of his mind to one particular object. But such a person, however distinguished in his own sphere, is educated merely to be a literary artisan; and neither attains the
perfection, nor the happiness, of his nature. za moc" education only can be considered as complete and
generous, which” (in the language of Milton) “ fits a “ man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, “ all the offices, both private and public, of peace,
66 of war
I hope it will not be supposed, from the foregoing observations, that they are meant to recommend an indiscriminate attention to all the objects of speculation and of action. Nothing can be more evident, than the necessity of limiting the field of our exertion, if we wilh to benefit society by our labours. But it is perfectly consistent with the most intense application to our favourite pursuit, to cultivate that general acquaintance with letters and with the worl, which may be sufficient to enlarge the mind, and to preserve it from any danger of contracting the pedantry of a particular profeffion. In many cases, (as was alrcady remarked,) the sciences reflect light on each other; and the general acquisitions which we have made in other pursuits, may furnish us with useful helps for the farther profecution of our own. But even in those instances in which the case is otherwise, and in which these liberal accomplishments must be purchased by the facrifice of a part of our professional eminence, the acquisition of them will amply repay any loss we may sustain. It ought not to be the leading object of any one, to become an eminent metaphysician, mathematician, or poet ; but to render himself happy as an individual, and an agreeable, a respectable, and an useful member of society. A man who loses his fight, improves the sensibility of his touch; but who would consent, for such a recompence, to part with the pleasures which he receives from
* Tractate of Education.
It is almost unnecessary for me to remark, how much individuals would be assisted in the proper and liberal culture of the mind, if they were previously led to take a comprehensive survey of human nature in all its parts; of its various faculties, and powers, and sources of enjoyment; and of the effects which are produced on these principles by particular situations. It is such a knowledge alone of the capacities of the mind, that can enable a person to judge of his own acquisitions ; and to employ the most effectual means for supplying his defects, and removing his inconvenient habits. Without some degree of it, every man is in danger of contracting bad habits, before he is aware ; and of suffering some of his powers to go to decay, for want of proper exercise.
If the business of early education were more thoroughly, and more generally, understood, it would be less necessary for individuals, when they arrive at maturity, to form plans of improvement for themselves. But education never can be systematically directed to its proper objects, till we have obtained, not only an accurate analysis of the general principles of our nature, and an account of the most important laws which regulate their operation ; but an explanation of the various modifications and combinations of these principles, which produce that diversity of talents, genius, and character, we observe among men.
To instruct youth in the languages, and in the sciences, is comparatively of little importance, if we are inaitentive to the habits they acquire ; and are not careful in giving, to all their different faculties, and all their different principles of action, a proper degree of employment. Abstracting entirely from the culture of their moral powers, how extensive and difficult is the businels of conducting their intellectual improvement! To watch over the associations which they form in their tender years; to give them early habits of mental activity ; to rouze their curiosity, and to direct it to proper objects ; to exercise their ingenuity and invention; to cultivate in their minds a turn for speculation, and at the same time preserve their attention alive to the objects around them ; to awaken their sensibilities to the beauties of nature, and to inspire them with a relish for intellectual enjoyment;—these form but a part of the business of education; and yet the execution even of this part requires an acquaintance with the general principles of our nature, which seldom falls to the share of those to whom the instruction of youth is commonly intrusted.-Nor will such a theoretical knowledge of the human mind, as I have now described, be always sufficient in practice. An uncommon degree of sagacity is frequently requisite, in order to accommodate general rules to particular tempers, and characters.-In whatever way we chuse to account for it,
whether by original organisation, 'or by the operation of moral causes, in very early infancy; no fact can be more undeniable, than that there are important differences discernible in the minds of children, previous to that period at which, in general, their intellectual edu. cation commences. There is, too, a certain hereditary character (whether resulting from physical constitution, or caught from imitation and the influence of situation), which appears iemarkably in particular families. One race, for a succession of generations, is distinguished by a genius for the abstract sciences, while it is deficient in vivacity, in imagination, and in taste : another is no less distinguished for wit, and gaiety, and fancy; while it appears incapable of patient attention, or of profound research. The system of education which is proper to be adopted in particular cases, ought, undoubtedly, to have some reference to these circumstances; and to be calculated, as much as possible, to develope and to cherish those intellectual and active principles, in which a natural deficiency is most to be apprehended. Montesquieu, and other speculative politicians, have infifted much on the reference which education and laws should have to climate. I shall not take upon me to say, how far their conclusions on this subject are just ; but I am fully persuaded, that there is a foundation in philosophy, and good sense, for accommodating, at a very early period of life, the education of individuals to those particular turns of mind, to which, from hereditary propensities, or from moral situation, they may be presumed to have a natural tendency.