« PreviousContinue »
Our connection with Spain is already important, and will become daily more 80. Besides this, the ancient part of American history is written chiefly in Spanish. To a person who would make a point of reading and speaking French and Spanish, I should doubt the utility of learning Italian. These three languages, being all degeneracies from the Latin, resemble one another so much, that I doubt the possibility of keeping in the head a distinct knowledge of them all. I suppose that he who learns them all, will speak a compound of the three, apd neither perfectly.
The journey which I propose to you need not be expensive, and would be very useful. With your talents and industry, with science, and that steadfast honesty which eternally pursues right, regardless of consequences, you may promise yourself every thing—but health, without which there is no happiness. An attention to health, then, should take place of every other object. The time necessary to procure this by active exercises, should be devoted to it, in preference to every other pursuit. I know the difficulty with which a studious man tears himself from his studies, at any given moment of the day. But his happiness, and that of his family, depend upon it. The most uninformed mind, with a healthy body, is happier than the wisest valitudinarian.
To Thomas Jefferson Smith. This letter will, to you, be as one from the dead. The writer will be in the grave before you can weigh its councils. Your affectionate and excellent father has requested that I would address to you something which might possibly bave a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run; and I too, as a namesake, feel an interest in that course. Few words will be necessary, with good dispositions on your part. Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself and your country more than your. self. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life, into which you have entered, be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss. And, if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. Farewell.
Monticello, February 21st, 1826. The Portrait of a Good Man. Lord, who's the happy man that may to thy blest courts repair; Not, stranger-like, to visit them, but to inhabit there? 'Tis he, whose every thought and deed by rules of virtue moves; Whose generous tongue disdains to speak, the thing his heart disproves. Who never did a slander forge, his neighbor's fame to wound; Nor hearken to a false report, by malice whispered round. Who vice, in all its pomp and power, can treat with just neglect; And piety, though cloth'd in rags, religiously respect. Who to his plighted vows and trust, has ever firmly stood; And though he promise to his loss, he makes his promise good Whose soul in usury disdains his treasures to employ; Whom no rewards can ever bribe, the guiltless to destroy. The man, who by this steady course has happiness insured, When earth's foundations shake, shall stand, by Providence secured.
A Decalogue for Practical Life. 1. Never put off till tomorrow. what you can do to-day. 2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. 3. Vever spend your money before you have it. 4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap, it will be dear to you. 5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold. 6. We never repent of having eaten too little. 7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly 8. How much pain have cost us the evils that never happened. 9. Take things always by their smooth bandle. 10. When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry count an hundred.
FEMALE EDUCATION has occupied my attention so far only as the education of my own daughters occasionally required. Considering that they would be placed in a country situation, where little aid could be obtained from abroad, I thought it essential to give them a solid education, which would enable them, when they became mothers, to educate their own daughters, and even to direct the course for sons, should their fathers be lost, or incapable, or inattentive. My surviving daughter accordingly, the mother of many daughters, has made their education the object of her life ; and being a better judge of the practical part than myself, it is with her aid, and that of one of her élèves, that I shall subjoin a catalogue of the book for such a course of reading as we have practiced.
A great obstacle to good education, is the inordinate passion prevalent for novels, and the time lost in that reading which should be instructively employed. When this passion infects the mind, it destroys its tone, and revolts it against wholesome reading. Reason and fact, plain and unadorned, are rejected. Nothing can engage attention unless dressed in all the figments of fancy, and nothing so decked comes amiss. The result is a bloated imagination, sickly judgment, and disgust towards the real business of life. . . For a like reason, too much poetry should not be indulged. Some is useful for forming taste and style. Pope, Dryden, Thomson, Shakespeare, Moliere, Racine, Cor. neille may be read with pleasure and profit.
The ornaments, too, and the amusements of life, are entitled to their portion of attention. These, for a female, are dancing, drawing, and music. The first is a healthy exercise, elegant, and very attractive for young people. Drawing is an innocent and engaging amusement, often useful, and a qualification not to be neglected in one who is to become a mother and instructor. Music is invaluable when a person has an ear. It furnishes a delightful recre ation for the hours of respite from the cares of the day, and lasts us through life.
I need say nothing of household economy, in which the mothers of our country are usually skilled, and generally careful to instruct their daughters. We all know it is useful, and that diligence and dexterity in all its processes are inestimable treasures. The order and economy of a house are as honorable to a mistress as those of a farm to the master, and if either be neglected, ruin follows, and children destitute of the means of living. -Letter to N. Durwell, 1818.
[To his daughter Martha (afterwards Mrs. Randolph) in her twelfth year, then under the instruction of Mrs. Hopkinson, he suggests the following distribution of her time:]
From 8 to 10, practice music.
I expect you will write me every post. Inform me what books you read, what tunes you learn, and inclose me your best copy of any lesson in drawing. Take care that you never spell a word wrong. . . At all times let your clothes be neat, whole, and properly put on. I have much at heart your learning to draw. As for preparation for death, the only way to be so is never to say or do a bad thing. Be sure and obey your conscience. Our Maker hath given us all this faithful internal monitor.
WILLIAM GASTON, LL.D.
ADDRESS TO THE STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, AT CHAPEL
HILL, ON THE CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS IN PUBLIC LIFE, 1832. The authority of Shakspeare is often invoked for the position, that there is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.' Without venturing to deny altogether the fitness of this metaphor, and fully admitting it to have enough of truth to render it appropriate to the occasion for which it was used, and the character to whom the great poet assigned it, I yet regard it as too favorable to that indolence of disposition which is always ready to imagine success in life as depending on some fortunate tide. I hold, that generally, every man is the architect of his own fortune, the author of his own greatness or insignificance, happiness or misery. True it is, that casualties, neither to be foreseen nor prevented, may defeat schemes which have been wisely concerted and vigorously prosecuted; and that success, undeserved, and perhaps unsought for, may sometimes befall the weak and slothful. These, however, are but occasional deviations from the ordinary course of nature, according to which man's energies, wisely or foolishly directed, and diligently or carelessly exerted, are made to determine his character and condition in society. The stoutest ship that was ever manned with prudent heads, brave hearts, and strong hands, bas foundered in a hurricane, while the feeble bark that owns no mastery in floating,' is sometimes safely wafted into port; yet, who can deny that ordinarily the fate of the voyage must depend on the skill, care, and courage with which it is conducted.
Much too, very much, either for permanent good or ill in the fate of every individual, has been found to follow almost necessarily from the habits formed, the propensities cherished or restrained, and the rules of conduct adopted at a very early period of life. We might, perhaps, be tempted to regret that such important and often awful consequences should follow on the doings of an age, when the unworn senses are alive to every impression, and the keen appetite greedy for every enjoyment; when the imagination is wild, the judgment feeble, and beedless rambling impulse' has scarcely learned to think. Yet such is the constitution of nature, and such consequently the appointment of Him, whose ways are always wise, benevolent, and just, and whose will it were not more madness to resist, than it is impiety to question. Look through the world, and
The annals of public or private excellence present few more attractive characters than that of WILLIAM GASTON of North Carolina-born at Newburn, 1784, and died in 1844, before the evil days of which he was apprehensive, and against which he warned the youth of the whole country, had come upon the land which he loved and served with Christian devotion.
the least observant can not fail to discover talents abused, opportanities squandered, and men ruined, because of early folly, misbehavior or thoughtlessness; and let those who have passed through life's ordeal with safety and honor, look back on their trials, and they will acknowledge how much they owe to very early impressions, and to habits contracted almost without a sense of their use or a foresight of their consequences. He, therefore, who aspires to excellence, can not too soon propose to himself the objects which he should strive to obtain, nor fix his aim too early, or too steadily, on the end to which his efforts should be directed. The shortness of life, the large fragments of it which are necessarily oocupied by animal wants, or wasted in frivolous cares and amusements, at best, but an inconsiderable portion to be devoted to intellectual cultivation and exertion. To waste this portion would be criminal improvidence, and it is of the highest moment to learn betimes how it may be most beneficially applied.
DILIGENCE-EARLY, CONSTANT, AND PERSEVERING. Vigorous, diligent, and persevering application is essential to the attainment of excellence in every pursuit of man. It is undoubt. edly a mistake to suppose, that there is no original inequality in the mental faculties of different individuals. Probably, there is as great a disparity in their intellectual, as in their physical conformation. But however false this extravagant theory may be, there is another error far more common, and practically, far more mischievous—the error of exaggerating the difference between the original energies of intellect, and of attributing to splendid and resistless genins those victories which are not to be achieved but by well directed and continued industry. It is in the infancy of life, that the inequalities of original talent are most striking, and it is not strange, that vanity on the one hand, and indolent admiration on the other, should hyperbolically extol these obvious advantages. In what this disparity consists, it may not be easy to state with precision. But from an observation of many years, I venture to suggest, that the chief natural superiority manifested by the favored few over their competitors in the intellectual conflict, is to be found in the facility with which their attention is directed and confined to its proper subjects. That youth may be regarded as fortunate indeed, who in early life can restrain his wandering thoughts and tie down his mind at will, to the contemplation of whatever he wishes to comprehend and to make his own. A few moments of this concentrated application, is worth days and weeks of a vague, interrupted, scattered attention. The first resembles the well known maneuver in Strategy, so simple in its conception and yet so astonishing in its results, by which all the arms of a military force are made to bear upon a given point at the same moment. Every thing here tells, because there is no power wasted, and none misapplied. Now let no one despair, because he finds this effort to confine his attention difficult, or for a considerable length of time, impracticable. Nothing is more certain, than that this power over the mind may be acquired. Let the attempt be repeated again and again--first for short, afterwards, as the ability is increased, for longer periods, and success will ultimately follow. The habit of fixed attention will thus be created, and it is one of the peculiarities of all active habits, that in proportion to the difficulty with which they were produced, is their inveteracy, when once thoroughly formed. Thus it not unfrequently happens, that the advantages with which the individual commenced his career, who was naturally alert and devoted in his attention to every subject, as it was successively presented to his notice, have not enabled him to contend successfully with him, who, by hard efforts, has chained down his wandering thoughts and dissipated faculties to the habit of attention.
INTEGRITY IN PRIVATE AXD PUBLIC LIFE.
But however earnestly you are thus exhorted to diligence, let it not be forgotten, that diligence itself is but a subordinate quality, and derives its chief value from the end to which it is directed, and the motives by which it is impelled. It is diligence in a good cause only that is commendable. The first great maxim of human conduct, that which it is all-important to impress on the understandings of young men, and recommend to their hearty adoption, is, above all things, in all circumstances, and under every emergency, to preserve a clean heart and an honest purpose. Integrity, firm, determined integrity, is that quality, which of all others, raises man to the highest dignity of his nature, and fits him to adorn and bless the sphere in which he is appointed to move. Without it, neither genius nor learning, neither the gifts of God, nor human exertions, can avail aught for the accomplishment of the great objects of human existence. Integrity is the crowning virtue integrity is the pervading principle which ought to regulate, guide, control, and vivify every impulse, desire, and action. Honesty is sometimes spoken of as a vulgar virtue; and perhaps that honesty, which barely refrains from outraging the positive rules ordained by society for the protection of property, and which ordinarily pays its debts and performs its engagements, however useful and commendable a quality, is not to be numbered among the highest efforts of human virtue. But that integrity which, however tempting the opportunity, or however secure against detection, no selfishness nor resent,