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It is a great art in the education of youth to find out peculiar aptitudes, or, where none exist, to create inclinations, which may serve as substitutes. Different minds are like different soils; some are suited only to particular cultivation ; others will mature almost any thing; others, again, are best adapted to a round of ordinary products; and a few are wasted, unless they are reserved for what is most choice. The common run of minds may be compared to arable land, and are suited indifferently to the drudgery of any business. There is a more rugged, and apparently sterile class, which yields no return to ordinary cultivation, but is like the mountain side, rearing, in a course of years, the stately forest ; and there are the felicitous few, which resemble the spots calculated for the choicest vineyards. It is fortunate for the individuals and society, when each class is put to its proper
To pursue the comparison, minds, like soils, are often deceitful in their early promise ; and as a young orchard will sometimes thrive vigorously for a time, and when its owner expects a fair return, will canker and die—so youth will
promise success in a particular line, till some hidden defect begins to operate, and the fondest hopes are blasted. However, these are the exceptions, and not the rule, and sound judgment in the destination of children will in the vast majority of cases be amply repaid. The great error, I apprehend, that parents fall into, and often unconsciously, is that they consult their own interests and inclinations rather than those of their children, and that vanity, ambition, and avarice, too often blind their understandings. There are difficulties even with the purest intentions, because apparent aptitudes are not, as I have already observed, always real ones, and because inclinations often arise from accidental causes, and change for the
Where there is a great and undoubted aptitude, it must be injudicious to thwart it; for though the indulgence may be attended with objections, it must in the nature of things be compensated by keen enjoyment, and it is better to be eminently successful in an inferior line, than moderately so, with a great chance of failure, in a superior one.
Where it seems a matter of indifference to what a young person is destined, it is important, when the choice is made, to create a corresponding inclination, which will serve in some sort instead of an aptitude, and this may be easily accomplished in general by contriving some attraction to the calling, as by bringing about an intimacy with one already engaged in it, and turning the will of the parent into the choice of the child. Some such course is the most likely to ensure that willingness and steadiness, which are the forerunners of success. There are certain useful branches of learning, which it is expedient, or rather necessary, that every one should be instructed in according to situation in life, whatever may be the individual repugnance or unfitness.
But it is otherwise with accomplishments and the higher parts of learning ; for they profit really nothing, where there is no turn for them, and the time and attention they are made to occupy, might often be advantageously employed on plainer objects. I will instance the routine of accomplishments that young ladies are constrained to acquire, whether they have any taste for them or not, the display of which when unaccompanied by taste, is a great annoyance in society. A taste cultivated affords pleasure buth to the possessor and to others; and if people would only addict themselves to that in which they excel, they might well afford to be ignorant of most other matters.
What a quantity of dancing, singing, playing, and drawing there is, which has no other effect but to expose and bore !
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XVI.] WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 2, 1835. [PRICE 3d.
SOCIETY is governed much more by false than by true principles; by expedients and substitutes rather than by sound rules. When abuse has arisen from the neglect of a principle, it is a very common error to abandon the principle, and adopt some expedient with reference to the particular abuse, which is the beginning of endless botchery. There are very numerous instances of this both in the practice of government and in legislation. A true principle, if adhered to, has a selfadjusting power ; a false one requires constant bolstering, and every quack has his nostrum. There never was a period, probably, in the history of this country, when there was a greater tendency to wander from sound principles, than at the
present. The undoubted necessity for great changes has raised
host of reformers, who think, because they can see abuses, that they can with equal facility see the proper remedies; but they appear to me, one and all, incapable, from the
double disqualification of party blindness, and want of elementary experience. It is not often that I trouble myself about the lengthy debates in the two houses of Parliament; but on two or three questions, which have been the objects of my particular attention, I have read every thing that has been said on both sides, and I can say, without exaggeration, that I have been perfectly astonished at the general absence of accurate information and clear views, and I have often had occasion to doubt whether those who took my side of the question, or those who took the opposite, were the most deficient. The reason of this I believe to be twofold ; first, the want of schooling in the art and practice of government, which can never be supplied by information at second hand; and, secondly, because, even with the purest and highest minded, according to the present standard, I fear zeal for some party end constantly predominates over that for the establishment of truth. Nothing but the organization of local governments upon such principles as will induce the best qualified there to begin their training, will ever produce a race of sound legislators and practical statesmen. It is not in the nature of things that either minister or legislator should learn their business, in office or in parliament; they are beginning where they ought to end. They should enter upon their career in a smaller field, and in closer contact with mankind. The minister should know from his own gradual experience, or he will ever be vague in his views, as well as in trammels to interested and narrow-minded underlings; and the legislator should draw from nearer sources than the biassed and imperfect information to be obtained through committees and commissions, in which information, as far as I have seen, there is at least as much of falsehood as of truth. Our leading men are formed very much upon the plan of making a general, by giving at once the command of an army. To say that any man has great official and parliamentary experience, is ordinarily to say little more than that he is a tactician in trick and intrigue, and, in proportion, removed from the straightforward path of patriotism. However, the fault lies principally in the want of opportunity for preparation, owing to a system of overgrown government-in-chief, instead of a duly organized ascending scale.
Having wandered into these remarks, I will bring myself back to my subject proposed, by repeating my first sentences. Society is governed much more by false than by true principles ; by expedients and substitutes rather than by sound rules. When abuse has arisen from the neglect of a principle, it is a very common error to abandon the principle, and adopt some expedient with reference to the particular abuse. А strong illustration of this seems to me to be found in the practice of taking security from persons in public trusts of a pecuniary character-a practice, the reasonableness of which I have never heard even doubted; but let us see how it is likely that it operates. In my article on Preferment to Place, in my thirteenth number, I have observed, “It is not enough to prefer those who are fit; the choice should fall upon those who are most fit. It is not enough to choose from those who apply; the most meritorious should be sought out." If this principle had been followed, the idea of requiring security would never have occurred. It would have been unnecessary, and would have been a degradation. But neglect of the principle induced a frequent violation of trusts, and the most prominent feature being a defalcation in accounts, the remedy applied had solely a reference to that, though it is not to be supposed that a public defaulter could originally have been very fit for his situation. The real remedy lay in an inquiry on each defalcation into the mode of appointment, and a demand on the part of the public of the enforcement of the principle I have above laid down. The expedient of taking security has a tendency to lower still farther the standard of qualification, because, the principal abuse being professed to be guarded against, greater carelessness as to general fitness