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much adorn the youthful mind, by any restraint or destruc-
tion of animal life. Still it is a study necessarily encum-
bered with hard names, and is not apt to induce an attention
to the habits of plants. The study of Entomology is em-
inently exempted from this last charge, and the objects for
study are vastly more diffiised and accessible than those
which are subjects of examination in Botany, and also more
immediately connected with self; but they are regarded,
most unjustly too, as objects of dfsgust, and legitimate
subjects for persecution and extermination, and the sacrifice
of life is involved in their collection and examination.

These two departments. Botany and Entomology, should

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be studied in connexion ; because every plant has some
one or more insects peculiar to it, besides affording occa-
sional nourishment or refuge to many that are not so limited
in their range. In fact, the different parts of a plant, — the
root, stem^ leaf, flower and fruit, have each their parasite.
The entomologist learns where to expect each species of
insect he desires. He is not obliged to subject himself as
a ludicrous spectacle, in chasing a butterfly over the field,
if he would obtain it ; but he knows the plant where he
may find it in its unfledged state ; and he knows, also,
the proper season for expecting it. Thus, in the pursuit of
one study, we unavoidably come in contact with the objects
of the other.

The study of the Crustacea and MoUnsca, which occupy
the same place at sea that insects do on land, is by no
means devoid of interest. But it must be limited to those
who reside in the vicinity of the sea.

Conchology, within a few years, has come to engage a
disproportioned share of attention and has perhaps been
more generally studied, than any other branch of Natural
History. Its interest consists chiefly in the beauty and
variety of shells. This is wanting in profit as a study for
youth, because it is for the most part an indoor study,
and because shells are the mere inanimate residences,
of creatures about which a scholar will seek no knowledge.
Conchology, as it is usually studied, is in fact a mere grati-
fication of curiosity, an amusement, innocent and pleasant
in itself, but fraught with little real information, and little
practical benefit.

Ichthyology and Ornithology are both of them liable to
the objection, that they may nurture, in youth, habits of
cruelty, and a disregard for life, every approach to which
we should beware of cherishing. Aside from this, I can
conceive of no study more pleasing and healthful than that
of Ornithology. It leads us to the contemplation of objects

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MROcent and charming in themselves: their habits and
modes of life are sufficiently wonderful to excite our highest
admiration ; their form and colors are wonderfully beautiful
and graceful ; their song so melodious as to charm the most
fastidious ear ; their example might inculcate many a pre-
cept of affection and innocence ; and, withal, the study
implies the enjoyment of the purest air, the loveliest scenery,
and the most healthful exercise.

Mineralogy is a subject of perhaps even more universal
attention than Botany. Its practical utility, and the in-
trinsic value of its products, have perhaps tended to render
it such. These considerations are weighty in advancing
the claims of Mineralogy. By the ardor with which it is
usually pursued, we reasonably conclude that it abounds
in interest. In short, we find connected, almost all the
benefits which might be expected from the pursuit of other
departments of Natural History ; and we find nothing to
«et down against it, unless it be, that it is not a study appro-
priate for both sexes, and that such an extended and
thorough acquaintance with it as would render it practically
useful, requires a knowledge of Chemistry which few

On the whole, then, we think there is little to choose
between Mineralogy, Botany, Entomology and Ornithology,
as a study for youth. They are each sufficiently useful,
and sufficiently attractive and fascinating; and objects for
consideration in each of these branches are abundantly

How abundant they are, no one can realize who has not
himself made them objects of search. Nearly five thousand
animals and plants, besides minerals, are already catalogued
by Professor Hitchcock, in his Report on the Mineralogy,
Botany and Geology of Massachusetts. Hundreds and
thousands of birds, plants and minerals are within the daily
walks of almost every individual in the country, while tho

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hosts of insects are almost countless. Tbey are in erery
path, in every pool, and on every blade of grass. The
entomologist, while in search of insects, tramples down the
rarest plants, and turns over the richest mineral specimens
without noticing them; while the botanist or the miner-
alogist crushes thousands of insects beneath his feet, while
in pursuit of the subjects of his favorite science.

It may be expected that I should say a few words on the
modes of teaching Natural History to children. The object
is to teach them the art of observing, and not the rules of
books. Let the teacher first inculcate, that every object he
sees upon the face of the globe, however repulsive at first
sight, is worthy of examination, that it has something pecu-
liar to itself, and that it has an office to perform in the
economy of the universe. Let him then endeavor to illus-
trate this, by exhibiting and explaining some object whose
history he knows — no matter what this is — the first may be
a mineral, the next a plant, and the next im insect. While
doing this, he will, of course, be obliged to point out the
important parts of that object, and the uses to be made of
them. I will endeavor to illustrate what I mean, by a
single example. Let the teacher go to the common thistle
in July, and be will usually find upon its leaves a brownish
caterpillar, covered with spines : let him show how these
spines, being longer than those on the thistle, of course
protect the tender body of the caterpillar from being
wounded : let him show how the caterpillar, in the course
of his growth, casts off one skin after another, to allow of
his enlarged size : see him arrived at his full growth, seek-
ing a place beneath some leaf, where he may suspend him-
self — now he spins a small, thick web, and fastening his
hinder feet into it, he swings off*, and hangs head downward
•—soon the skin bursts behind his head, and he, in the
most wonderful manner, extricates himself from his skin,
and casting it down, remains suspended in his place, without

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legs for motion, or mouth to take food, appearing like a
mass of solid gold. About fourteen days from this, during
which this nymph or chrysalis, as the pupil may be told it is
called, remains motionless, without eating or drinking
let them observe again ; they will perceive the gold to
become dim, and the morning afterward, the covering burst,
and an unseemly creature is seen to issue forth, and cling
to its cast off clothing — watch it for half an hour, see its
wings expand, and behold the beautiful calico butterfly :
tell him how it flits about for a very few days, deposits and
secures its curious eggs, which are to produce, not butter-
flies, but caterpillars, and then dies. You have taught a
lesson which he will delight to observe again and again, and
point out to others, and which will serve as an example for
the study of every other caterpillar the child may ever meet
with. Next, you may take up some other object, no matter
what, which shall be illustrated. It will be seen that the
study is to be mostly pursued out of doors, and that all in-
struction is to be given by lectures, and not in the form of
recitation. This may all be done without the aid of books
or the encumbrance of hard names ; and it requires that
the teacher should be but little in advance of his pupils.
After much attention to the subject, the pupil may not
have become a proficient in any single branch of Natural
History ; but he will have acquired an unquenchable love
for the whole subject, and will have cultivated, at an early
age, the only true method of making any proficiency as a
naturalist ; and if, in after life, his circumstances shall pre-
vent him from aspiring to this title, he will have directed
his thoughts into a channel which will afibrd him a never-
failing source of amusement, happiness and profit, whatever
may be his lot in life, or wherever he may be situated.

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GcNTLcxEN — The objects of the American Institute of
Instruction are, as I understand them, in a great measure,
if not altogether of a practical nature. Under such circum-
stances the time passed here might well be deemed ill employ*
ed, if any attempt were now made merely to bring together
topics fot literary amusement and recreation, or an elabo-
rate discourse, designed to gratify the taste of scholars,
should be substituted for plain, direct and grave discussion.
I shall, therefore, proceed at once to the task, which has
been assigned to me on the present occasion, and endeavor
to bring before you such views as have occurred to me
touching " The Science of Government as a branch of
popular Education."

The subject naturally divides itself into three principal
heads of inquiry. In the first place, is the science of
Government of sufficient general importance and utility to
be taught as a branch of popular education ? In the next
place, if it be of such importance and utility, is it capable
of being so taught ? And in the third place, if capable of
being so taught^what is the best or most appropriate method
of instruction ? My object is to lay before you some con-
siderations on these topics, in the order in which they are
slated ; and I think that I do not overvalue them, when I
assert, that there are few questions of a wider or deeper
interest, and few of a more comprehensive and enlarged phi-

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loiiophy, 8o far as philosophy bears upon the general
concerns of human lile.

First, then, as to the importance and utility of the science
of government. Of course I do not intend here to speak
of the necessity of government in the abstract, as the only
social bond of human society. There are few men in our
age, who are disposed to engage in the vindication of what
some are pleased to call natural society, as contra-distin-
guished from political society ; or to pour forth elaborate
praises in favor of savage life, as superior to, and more
attractive than social life. There is little occasion now
to address visionaries of this sort ; and if there were, this ifr
not the time or the place to meet their vague and declama-
tory asseverations. It is to the science of government,
that our attention is to be drawn. The question is not,
whether any government ought to be established; but
what form of government is best adapted to promote the
happiness, and secure the rights and interests of the
people, upon whom it is to act. The science of government
therefore involves the consideration of the true ends of
government, and the means, by which those ends can be
best achieved or promoted. And in this view it may be
truly said to be the most intricate and abstruse of all human
inquiries, since it draws within its scope all the various
concerns and relations of man, and must perpetually
reason from the imperfect experience of the past for the
boundless contingencies of the future. The most, that
we can hope, under such circumstances, to do, is, to make
nearer and nearer approximations to truth, without our
ever being certain of having arrived at it in a positive form.

This view of the matter is not very soothing to human
pride, or human ambition. And yet the history of human
experience for four thousand years has done little more
than to teach us the melancholy truth, that we are as yet but
in the infancy of the science : and that most of its great

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pixrfdems reBaainas yet unsolved, or have been thus for solved
only to mortify human vanity and disappoint the spirit of
political prophecy. Aristotle and Cicero, the great masters
of antiquity in political philosophy, exhausted their own
ample resources rather in the suggestion of hints, than in
tfae formation of systems. They pointed out what had
been, or then were the forms and principles of existing
goi^ernments, rather to check our ardor, than to encourage
our hopes ; rather to instruct us in our duties and difficul-
tiesi than to inflame our zeal, and confirm our theories.
They look as little courage from the speculations of Plato,
pouring out his fine genius upon his own imaginary
republic, as modern times have from examining the Utopia
of Sir Thomas Moore, or the cold and impracticable reveries
of one of the most accomplished men of the last age, David

The truth is, that the study of tlie principles of govern-
ment is the most profound and exhausting of any, which can
engage the human mind. It admits of very few fixed
and inflexible rules ; it is open to perplexing doubts, and
questions in most of its elements ; and it rarely admits of
annunciations of universal application. The principles,
best adapted to the wants and interests of one age or
country, can scarcely be applied to another age or country
without essential modifications, and perhaps even with*
out strong infusions of opposite principles. The difierent
habits, manners, institutions, climates, employments, char-
acter% passions, and even prejudices and propensities, of dif-
ferent nations, present almost insurmountable obstacles to
a«y uniform system, independently of the large grounds of
diversity, from their relative intelligence, relative local posi-
tion, and relative moral advancement. Any attempt to force
upon all nations the same modifications and forms of govern-
ment) would be founded in just as little wisdom and sound
policy, as to force upon all persons the same food, and the

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Mime pursuits ; to compel the Greeulanders to cultivate yme*
yards, the Asiatics to fish in the Arctic seas, or the polished
inhabitants of the south of Europe to clothe themseWes in
bear skins, and live upon Iceland moss and whale oil.
Government, therefore, in a juist sense, is, if one may so
say, the science of adaptations — variable in its elements,
dependent upon circumstances, and incapable of a rigid
mathematical demonstration. The question, then, what
form of government is best ? can never be satisfactorily
answered, until we have ascertained for what people it is
designed ; and then it can be answered only by the closest
survey of all the peculiarities of their condition, moral, in-
tellectual and physical. And when we have mastered all
these, (if they are capable of any absolute mastery) we
have then but arrived at the threshold of our inquiries*
For, as government is not a thing for an hour or a day, but
is, or ought to be, arranged for permanence, as well as for
convenience of action, the future must be foreseen and
provided for, as well as the present. The changes in
society, which are forever silently but irresistibly going on —
the ever diversified employments of industry — the relative
advancement and decline of commerce, manu&ctures, agri-
culture and the liberal arts — the gradual alterations of
habits, manners and tastes — the dangers, in one age from
restless enterprise and military ambition, in another age
from popular excitements and an oppressive poverty, and in '
another, age from the corrupting influence of wealth, and
the degrading fascinations of luxury — all these are to be
examined and guarded against, with a wisdom so compre-
hensive, that it must task the greatest minds, and the roost
mature experience.

Struck with considerations of this sort, and with the
difficulties inherent in the subject, there are not a few men
among those, who aim to guide the opinions of others, who

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haw adopted the erroneous and alarming docUine so
forcibly expressed by Pope, in, a single couplet,

" For forms of government let fools contest ',
Whate*er is best administered, is best."

As if everything were to be left to the arbitrary wiH and
caprice of rulers; and the whole interests of society were to
be put at risk upon the personal character of those, who
constitute the existing government. According to this
theory, there is no difference between an absolute despotism,
and a well organized republic ; between the securities of a
government of checks and balances, and a division of
powers, and those of a sovereignty, irresistible and unre*
sisted ; between the summary justice of a Turkish Sultan,
and the moderated councils of a representative assembly*
Nay, the doctrine has been pressed to a farther extent,
not merely by those, who constitute, at all times, the r^^lar
advocates of public abuses, and the flatterers of power, but
by men of higher characters, whose morals have graced,
and whose philosophy has instructed the age, in which they
lived* The combined genius of Goldsmith and Johnson
arrived at the calm conclusion, that the mass of the people
could have little reason to complain of any exercises of
tyranny, since the latter rarely reached the obscurity and
retirement of private life. They have taught us this great
conservative lesson, so deadening to all reforms and all
improvements, with all the persuasive eloquence of poetry,

** In eyery government though terrors reign,
Though tyrant kings and tyrant laws restrain.
How small of all, that human hearts endure,
That part, which laws or kings can cause or cure."

If this were true, it would, indeed, be of very little con-
sequence to busy ourselves about the forms or objects of
government. The subject might amuse our leisure hours,'

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but ooaU tcarcdy touch our pi«ciioal interetts. But the
truth is lar otherwise. The great mass of human cabniities,
in all agesy has been the result of bad govemment, or ill-
adjusted government ; of a capricious exercise of power, a
fluctuating public policy, a degrading tyranny, or a deso-
lating ambition. Bad laws and bad institntioas have grad-
ually sunk the peasantry and artisans of most countries l#
a harsh and abject poverty, and involved them in sufferings,
as varied and overwhelming, as any inflicted by the desolating
march of a conqueror, or the sudden devastations of a

But an error of an opposite character, and quite as mis-
chievous in its tendency, is, the common notion, that gov-
ernment is a matter of great simplicity ; that its principles
are so clear, that they are little liable to mistake; that the
fiibric can be erected by persons of ordinary skill ; and that
when once erected upon correct principles, it will stand
without assistance,

" By ito own weight made ttead&it and immovable."

This is the besetting delusion (I had almost said beset-
ting sin) in all popular governments. It sometimes ttdLCs
its rise in that enthusiasm, which ingenuous minds are apt
to indulge in regard to human perfectibility. But it is
more generally propagated by demagogues, as the easiest
method of winning popular favor by appeals, which flatter
popular prejudices, and thus enable them better to accom-
plish their own sinister designs. If there be any truth,
which a large survey of human experience justifies us in
asserting, it is, that in proportion, as a government is free,
it must be complicated. Simplicity belongs to those only,
where one will governs all ; where one mind directs, and
all others obey ; where few arrangements are required, be-
cause no checks to power are allowed ; where law is not a

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TH£ aCtBIICE or GOVE&Iiiff^T. 256

•eiettee, but a nMiidale to be followed, and not to be dis-
cussed ; whem it is not a tiile for permanent action, but a
capridoua and arbitrary dictate of the hour.

But> passing firoan these general considerations, (upon
which it is, at present, unnecessary to enlarge,) I propose
to bring the subject immediately borne to our own business
and boaeniE, by ejcandning the importance and utility of
of the sciesce e£ government to Americans, with reference
to thekr own pcditical Lastitulions. And I do not hesitate
to affirm, not only, that a knowledge of the true principles of
govermneirt is important and usefol to Americans, but thaA
it is absohilely indiq>ensaUe to carry on the governmsiil of
their choioe, and to transmit it to tbeir poaterity.

la the first pbce, what are the great objects of all fi«e
governnsents ? They are, the prolecslieQ and preservation
oCtbe personal rights, the private property, and the public
l^Mvties of the whole people. Without a€CQm|]4ishiag
these ends, the. government may, indeed, be called free,
but it is a mere mockery, and a vain fantastic shadow. If
the person of any individual is not secure from assaults and
ipqnries ; if his reputation is not preserved from gross and
malicious calumny ; if be may not speak h» own opiniooa
with a manly fifunkness ; if he may be imprisoned without
just cause, and deprived of all freedom in his choice of
occupations and pursuits ; it will be idle to talk of his
liberty to breathe the air, or to baihe in the public ^eam,
or to give utterance to articulate language. If the
earnings of his industry may be appropriated, and his
pvoperty may be taken away at the mere will of rulers, or
the clamors of a mob, it can afford little consolation to
him, tliat he has already derived happiness from the
accumulation of wealth, or that he has the present pride of
an ample inheritance ; that bis farmis not yet confiscated ;
his house has not yet ceased to be his castle, and his
children are not y^ reduced to beggary. If his public

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liberties, as a'man and a citizen, bis right to vote, bis right
to hold office, his right to worship God according to the
dictates of his own conscience, his equality with all others,
who are his fellow citizens ; if these are at the mercy of
the neighboring demagogue, or the popular idol of the day ;
of what consequence is it to him, that he is permitted to
taste of sweets, which may be wantonly dashed from his.
lips at the next moment, or to possess privileges, winch
are felt more in their loss, even than in their possession ?
Life, liberty, and property stand upon equal grounds in the.
just estimate of freemen ; and one becomes almost worthless
without the security of the others. How, then, are these
rights to be established and preserved ? The answer is, by
constitutions of government, wisely framed and vigilantly
enforced ; by laws and institutions, deliberately examined,
and steadily administered; by tribunals of justice above
fear, and beyond reproach, whose duty it shall be to protect
the weak against the strong, to guard the unwary against
the cunning, and to punish the insolence of office, and the
spirit of encroachment^ and wanton injury. It needs
scarcely be said, how much wisdom, talents, discretioD^
and virtue are indispensable for such great purposes.

In the next place, the people have taken upon themselVes,
in our free form of government, the responsibility of
aocomplishing all these ends ; the protection and preserva-
tion of personal rights, of property, and public liberty. Is
it quite certain, that we shall successfully accomplish such
a vast undertaking ? Is any considerate man bold enough
to venture on such an assertion ? Is not our government
itself a new experiment in the history of the world ? Has
not every other republic, with all the wisdom, and splendor,
and wealth, and power, with which it has been frivored,
perished, and perished by its own hands, through the might
of its own fections ? These are inquiries, which may not
be suppressed or evaded. They must be met and delibe*

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rated, thejr press upon the minds of thousands, who are

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Online LibraryAmerican Institute of InstructionAnnual meeting of the American Institute of Instruction → online text (page 20 of 22)