Francis Hopkinson.

The Miscellaneous essays and occasional writings of Francis Hopkinson, Esq (Volume 2) online

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On a learned education,


On peace, liberty, and independence,


On duelling,


On public fp caking,


On the learned languages,


In reply to the former,


In verfe,


On the the new confitution,


Dialogue on the addrefs of the philofphical 'fociety to Dr,


6 9

On a law limiting the time of the general eleclion to 8 J clock, 76

The Pennfylvania ajfemblymaris vade mecum.


Obfervations on the bill for amending the penal laws,


On the fame fubj eel, v '


Afuit in the high court of honour,


To the Rev. Dr. White on Church Mufic,


Surveying applied to portrait painting,


New fources ofamufevaeni,


On white wa/hing,


Nitidias* anfwer,


The cobler No* 1.


L iv 1


A typographical method of conducting a quarrel, 179
Obfervattons of a foreigner on the jury trials of England, 194
Remarks of uncommon fenfe on a pamphlet re/peeling the

affairs of the bank, 22$

Specimen of a modem law fmt, 247

The new rcof, 2o2

The r/tw ruuf, a fong, 3 2 °

An intercepted letter from the centinel, 325

Objections to the new conjtitution, 3 29
Thoughts on the difeafes of the mind with a fcheme for
purging the moral faculties of the people ofPenn-

fylvania, 336
A full account of the grand procejjion at Philadelphia,

on the 4th July 1778, 349







XXAVING gone through the ufual courfe of
education in this feminary of learning; having
patted the ordeal trials of private and public exami-
nations, I am now in full expectation of receiving
thofe parchment honours, which are to teftify the
fuccefs of my ftudies, and prove, to a believing
world, that my labour hath not been in vain.

But it has been infinuated to me, that before

my temples can be crowned with collegiate laurels,

Vol. II. A it


r ^ i

it is expe&ed that I mould addrefs you, ladies and
gentlemen, in an elegant fpeech on this grand

Unreasonable as this demand feemed to be,
neverthelefs, being long accuftomed to fubmit, I
earneftly endeavoured to comply with it. I had re-
courfe to books, to folitary walks, ardent invocati-
ons, and all the ufual provocatives to good writing.
I chcfe for my fubjecl: the dignity of the fciences,
and the excellent mode of attaining them in this uni-
verfity. Ibegan with a warm apoftrophe tothis build-
ing, in manner and form following: — Oh, ye facred
walls ! ye venerable (tools and benches ! and thou,
expanded arch! that haft fo often echoed back the
fweet effufions of thofe afpiring youths who have,
in times paft, been nurtured within your hallowed
precin&s — hear! oh hear! one of your lateft fons
teflify the ardour with which he feels himfelf in-
fpired ! — Thus far, all was well — but what to fay
next was the difficulty. Whilft I was making eve-
ry poffible effort to proceed, an unlucky line of a
diftreffed poet, who was compofing new-year's
verfes, popped into my head, viz. " What can I
" f a h ^ dat h^nt been/aid before?"

This ridiculous queftion quenched all my en-
thufiafm in a moment — like a fpark drawn from the


[ 3 3

prime condu&or, the ele&rometer fell inftantly,
and I gave up the point.

Nothing could be more unfortunate : I cer-
tainly propofed, ladies and gentlemen, to have made
you a very fine fpeech, in the cuflomary flyle, but
my good intention having been thus unhappily
fruflrated, I muft e'en depend upon the chance of
the moment for what I fhall fay \ and I doubt not,
but that you, my benevolent hearers, will at lead
wifh me good luck, and a happy efcape from my
my preient difficulty.

Although I am under a neceflity to change
the intended flile of my fpeech, I fhall not entirely
abandon the fubject I had chofen ; but fhall en-
deavour to give this polite audience fome juvenile
ftri&ures on the prefent fyftem of what is called a
learned education : in doing which, I hope I may
be allowed the privilege of fpeaking freely without
giving offence. Although I fhall never think my-
felf difcharged from the obligations I owe to thefe
my kind and reverend inftrucliors, for their care
and attention to me ; yet, being now emancipated
from their immediate control, I fhall take the li-
berty of giving a free fcope to my fentiments, with-
out regarding how far they may run foul of the
dated opinions and prejudices of the fchools.

A 2 To

[ 4 3

To begin, then, the detail of our inftru&ion. —
After the youngfter hath been taught to fpell,
read, and write, in his mother tongue, he afcends
the firfl ftep of learned education. — The Latin lan-
guage is the objeft, to attain which, a Latin gram-
mar is put into the poor boy's hands. This gram-
mar is called the rudiments or foundation of that
language : by which one might fuppofe, that the
grammar had been given by infpiration, and the
Romans derived their language from it. But the
facl: is juft the reverfe ; for in every language, the
grammar is, and muft neceffarily be, the remit,
and not the origin of that language : but notwith-
flanding this undeniable truth, the Latin mufl be
inculcated according to the method and difcipline
of the fchools, a pqfteriori, in more fenfes than
one. — Well ! through this grammar, at all events,
the bewildered pupil mufl wade, groping for a
year or two in utter darknefs, and learning by rote
a complicated fyftem of rules, the propriety or ap-
plication of which it is impoifible for him to fee in
any inftance.

These rules are framed partly in elegant profe,
and partly in much more elegant verfe, in order,
I fuppofe, to infinuate to the (tudent fome tafte
for Latin poetry, whilfl he is learning the rudiments
of the language. If I had not, ladies, a re-


I 5 J

fpc&ful regard for your ears, and no fmall ten-
dernefs for my own teeth, I would give you a fam-
ple of our grammar verification.

After thefe rules have been got by rote, as
I faid before, it may be thought that there is no-
thing more neceffary to the knowledge of the La-
tin tongue — But Alas ! this is only the beginning
of troubles — The rules mud not only be got
by memory, but the exceptions alfo to thofe
rules — Now, good people, you muft know that
thefe exceptions, are fo very numerous, that, in
many cafes, it is immaterial which you choofe for
a ftandard, the rule itfelf, or the exception.

The excellency of this method of teaching a
language by means of its grammar, may be illuftra-
ted by a familiar parallel. You mufl know, ladies,
that when a man (lands, or walks, or performs any
motions of the body, fuch pofitions and motions
are all reducible to mathematical principles. In
all cafes, it is neceiTary that what is called the cen-
tre of gravity fhould be fupported, were it other-
mife, the perfon muft unavoidably fall to the
ground : and thus are all our movements redu-
cible to fyftem. Now, if the prefent mode of
education is right, and who dares aiTert it is
not } you fhould not fuffer your children to walk,
A3 or

[ 6 ]

or even attempt to walk, before they have learned
thefe rules, for which purpofe you muft neceffarily
provide mathematical nurfes and geometrical danc-
ing matters. Oh the excellence of learning ! What
delight muft it afford the fond parent, to fee young
matter (landing like the rafters of a houfe, and mifs
dancing in triangles, rhomboides, and trapeziums*

But to proceed. We will fuppofe the young
ftudent hath made fome advances in the know-
ledge of the Latin language, according to the me-
thod propofed. The firtt obfervable confequence
is, that he lofes, or at leaft gains, no ground in a
tafte for the elegancies of his native tongue.
His di&ion becomes ftiff and awkward, and his
hand writing intolerable. So that whiltt he is
fludying the anatomy of a dead language, he re-
mains a ftranger to the beauties of the living.

It is probable that there are many amongft the
ladies, whom I have now the honour to addrefs,
who have never ftudied grammar, or know any
thing of its rules ; and yet I venture to affirm,
that a few lines, written by your fair hands, and
dilated by gentle nature, fhall convey more lively
fenfibilities, and fhall find a fliorter way to the
heart, than a whole page — aye, or forty of them
—xompofed by the molt learned grammarian, with


[ 7 J

Dilwortb on his right hand, and Entick on his

In the mean time the affiduous youth reads
Ovid's Metamorphojis, for the improvement of his
morals ; and learns from Horace, to be chafte and
temperate. That time which might ufefully be
employed in ftudying the hiflories of thofe nati-
ons with whom we are, or may be connected, is
confumed in reading the delegable and lamentable
flory of JEneas and queen Dido. The one, a
hero of fo infignificant a caft, that all the laudabl e
ingredients of his character may be comprifed
in the words Pius JEneas; and the other, to
fpeak delicately, not the mofl mining example
of female virtue and moderation. The one, a
difcourteous knight, and the other a furious

It juft occurs to me, that Dido's greateft misfor-
tune was, that fhe lived in a barbarous age, when
lawyers were not to be had for love or money.
Had her famous amour happened in our day, fhe
might have recovered at lead £. 750 damages ;*
which, all things confidered, would have been


* This alludes to a cifcumftance of the time fomething like the
cafe of queen Dido.

r § j

much better than cutting her throat upon a wood-
pile— As defperate Dido did— This by the bye.

The young ftudent is at length fitted for the
higher claffes of fcience. He learns mathematicks,
geography, natural philofophy, logic, ethics, and

With refpecl: to the three firft, I would only
fay — That if they were diverted of fome fcientific
pedantry (I mean as they arc taught in the
fchooh), they are worthy the attention of a ratio-
nal mind, inafmuch as they advance the know-
ledge of truth ; for of all valuable things, truth
ib he mofl valuable.

But of all the fyftems of complicated nonfenfe,
that ever puzzled the bufy brains of mortal man,
logic is furely the moil infignificant. An art which
no ingenuity can apply to any one ufeful purpofe
of life. Imagine to yourfelves, gentle hearers, a
fociety of logicians , whofe converfation in the
common occurrences of life mould be conducted
mfyllogiftic mode and form. The learned houfe-
keeper goes to market, and endeavours to per-
fuade the butcher to lower the price of his mut-
ton in celarent ; the butcher enforces his demand
in barbara. The logical lover alfo attacks his
dulcinea in form. He allures her, in -particular af*


r 9 3

frmatives, that he is enamoured of her charms ; and
from thefe premifes, draws an artful conclufion,
that fhe ought to encourage his pailion, and return
his love. The lady replies, in univerfal negatives.
The gallant then plays off his whole battery in a
compacted forties. The lady anfwers only in the
fimple form — a weaknefs is difcovered in her mid-
dle term — fhe is reduced to a dilemma^ and furren-
ders at difcretion.

In fuch a procefs, what is to become of Cupid
and his darts ! What is to become of the losnc of


the eyes, and a thoufand namelefs expreffions of
the feelings of the heart, which nature alone can
dictate ? What is to become of them ! Why they
are entirely out of the queilion. Syllogifms — in-
vincible fyllogifms, mud fupply their place. What
is learning good for, unlefs it makes us wifer than
nature ?

But I may be told that logic never was de-
figned for fuch purpofes ; and that its ufe is the
difcovery of truth, and the detection of error —
Here I join iiTue — and am bold to afTert, that from
the days of Ariflotle to the prefent moment, man-
kind are not indebted to logic for the difcovery
of any one ufeful truth, or the detection of any
one dangerous error- — and further — that no man
ever was convinced by a fyllogifm — But I obferve


their reverences begin to frown — I (hall., therefore,
not urge this fubject any farther.

Ethics and tnetaphyjics bring up the rear of a
learned education. It would tire your patience,
my indulgent hearers, mould I enter upon a detail
of all the whimfical abfurdities with which thefe
fciences abound. If a man fhould conduct him-
felf through life, according to the flricl: rules of
ethics , he would be juft as ridiculous as the knight
of La Mancha, governing himfelf in the mod com-
mon occurrences by the folemn formalities of

As to rhetaphyjics, it is a vifionary fyflem, where-
in uncertain conclufions are drawn from uncertain
premifes, and in which the very terms ufed have
no determinate meaning. The whole is an inge-
nious fabric built in air ; having no real, known
foundation, whereon to reft : not unlike the Pa-
gan creed, that the world ftands upon the horns of
a bull ; the bull on the back of an elephant ; the
elephant on a great tortoife ; and the great tor-
tcife upon nothing.

It mud be owned, however, that we are in-
debted to metaphyfics for fome very curious and
entertaining riddles : fuch as — that infinite carried


[ ft ]

beyond infinity becomes finite — that one infinity
may be twice as long as another infinity — that foul
is not matter, and that matter is not foul ; and in
(hort, that it is no matter whether there be any
foul or not — Oh ! the heighths and the depths of
learning !

Thus, ladies and gentlemen, I have given you
the outlines of a fcholaftic education. My firft
intention was to have difcuffed this fubjecl: in high
flrains of panegyric ; but as this will be better
done by fome of my fellow-ftudents, I refer you to
them for thofe fublime nights of imagination
which pleafe the ear, but have nothing to do with
the underilanding or with truth.

I fhall conclude my addrefs with one reafonable
requeft, which is, that you, my benevolent au-
ditors, may extend the fame indulgence to me you
ufually do to the orators of this place, by forget-
ting every word you have heard as foon as you
have left this hall *.

As our defign looks no farther than prefent en-
tertainment, it would be unfair to make us refpon-
fible for the opinions we fport with, which mould


* There is a pulpit on the ftage, and the hall is frequently ufed as
a place of worfhip.

r i2 3

never after rife up in judgment againft us. I
urge this, not merely for my own fake, but in be-
half of my fellow-ftudents alfo, who will doubt-
lefs, in the heat of their zeal, advance many things,
which they would no more undertake to fupport
than I, if called upon, would defend the ob-
fervations and ftriclures I have juft had the honour
to deliver.


[ i3 ]


± HE prefent topic of converfation, the ob-
ject of univerfal attention, and the idols before
which the unthinking multitude proftrate them-
felves in fuperftitious adoration, are the late moll
glorious peace, as it is called, and the freedom and
independence of the United States of America
eflablifhed thereby. Peace, liberty, and indepen-
dence, have been echoed from one end of this great
continent to the other, and their praifes fet to e-
very note in the fcale of mufic : they have been be-
profed, and be-rhymed, and be-fiddled out of all
meafure, and out of all tune, as if the profperity —
nay, the falvation of our country, had no other
foundation whereon to reft.

For my part, I do not find myfelf difpofed to
throw my judgement into the common flock, to be

* The arguments ufed in this fpeech are manifeftly ironical \ but
the profeflors confidered it as burleiquing the fubjecl, and would
not permit it to be delivered.

C 14 1

carried down by the undiftmguifhing current of
popular opinion — Peace , liberty, and independence!
Very pretty words indeed ; they look exceedingly
well on paper ; whether they be written in round
hand, Italian hand, fquare text, German text, or a-
ny other text, provided they be fairly written. This
may pleafe the eye ; but let us confider a little how
they will fatisfy the underflanding ; how far they
are calculated to meet the approbation of an inqui-
fitive, penetrating mind : and this will beft be as-
certained by taking a view of the confequences
and effects which they are likely to produce.

As to the firft — Can any thing be more abfurd
than to fuppofe that peace is really productive of
happinefs ? Is not the contrary demonftrable ? Let
us, for a moment, imagine that all the inhabitants
of the world fhould remain for a whole century
in perfect peace and harmony. That no fuch
thing as public war, or private quarrels, fhould
exift in that period, a Situation, to be fure not pof-
fible, nature having wifely ordered matters other-
wife ; but fuppofe it to be fo, What would be the
confcquence ? The uninterrupted friendly inter-
courfe between nations by commerce, and between
individuals by contract, would foon reduce the
wealth of the world to a level. All emulation
would ceafe, and every fpur to induftry be blunted,


I '5 J

or done away. Luxury and infolencc would,
like a general plague, infeclt communities, and
fpread their baneful influences every where. The
courfe of human life, running on in even channels
and an unbroken calm, would become infupport-
ably tedious, and engender green melancholy,
andifour difcontent, unlefs accidental difcoveries
of artificial gratifications, for artificial appetites,
fliould now and then occafion fome flight varia-
tions in the difgufting fcene, by affording a tem-
porary but fatal relief. A miferable corruption of
morals, debauchery, and confequent languor and
difeafe, would reduce the human fpecies to a (late
of degeneracy ; infomuch, that for aught I know,
a fecond deluge would be neceffary to purge the
earth of its filthy inhabitants. No, it is war —
fpirited war, the clafhing of interefts, interfer-
ing pafiions, public contefls, and private animofi-
ties, that give energy to the purfuits of men, and
furnifh a theatre whereon the heroic virtues of the
heart, and the active powers of the mind, may ex-
hibit themfelves to advantage. Look round, and
you will find that nature, in all her works, fhews
afondnefs for contefl, having made oppofition
the life of the world. What is animal health but
a due mixture of contending qualities ? Solids
melting into fluids, and fluids coagulating into fo-
lids ; acids and alkalies maintaining perpetual war,
and rufhing together in effervefcing conflict ; vio-
i lent

r is i

lent inteftinc motions from fermentation and digef-
tion \ mufcles contracted by mufcles, pulling in
oppofite directions, and every property balanced
by another of a contrary nature : let all this in-
ternal conflict be compofed ; let the animal mi-
crocofm be in perfect peace, and the certain con-
fequence will be death and putrefaction. So alfo
in the elements : iliowers of rain, florms of wind,
thunder and lightning, are absolutely neceffary in
the ceconomy of our atmofphere. Without thefe,
the healthful air would foon become a peftilential
vapour, and the vafl ocean, a flagnant pool of
corruption. It is manifell, therefore, that nature
delights in context ; and never intended that either
the moral, or material world Ihould remain in un-
interrupted peace.

As to liberty^ it is difficult to fay in what it really
confifts. Men having not yet affixed any precife
idea to the word. The people of different coun-
tries have very different notions of it. What a
European would call liberty^ a Cherokee Indian
would confider as a mod cruel reftraint. If the
word be taken in its fulleft extent, viz. a right and
power to do whatever we pleafe, it is a privilege
which no man ever did or could enjoy ; an imagi-
nary (late of nature, in which men are fuppofed to
have lived without control, and in which every
2 individual

r 17 ]

individual was a fovereign, has fervcd as the foun-
dation of many ingenious fyftems, and learned dif-
fertations, by civilians, moralifls, and metaphyfici-
ans ; but even thefe profound philofophers are fo
far from efleeming fuch a Mate a blefling, that they
derive all the advantages of civil fociety, and the
good of mankind from a refignation of this natu-
ral liberty, which they aflure us is altogether in-
compatible with the fecurity and happinefs of the

But if we take the word in a more limited fenfe,
as it is generally confidered, when the terms civil
or political liberty are ufed, I would aik, what are
the great advantages derived from it ? or, rather,
what inconveniences does it not bring with it ?
Civil liberty confifts, chiefly, in a people's being go-
verned by no laws, but fuch as they have themfelves
made or affented to ; in not being obliged to part
with their property without their confent ; and in
holding their lives and eftates fecure from the ca-
pricious refentments of arbitrary power, or the
grafping hand of over-weening avarice : but fhould
not a prudent man confider that all this liberty
brings with it a deal of trouble and expence ?

Had Great-Britain fuccceded in her views with

refpeel: to this country, we fhould not have been

Vol. II. B put

C '8 ]

put to the laborious talk of framing laws for our
own government, a talk which we feem but in-
differently qualified to perform ; we fliould have
been rid of the intolerable plague, the heart-burn-
ings, feuds, cabals, and chicaneries attending popu-
lar elections, and we fliould have been eafed of the
enormous expence of affemblymen's wages, com-
miffions, fees and falaries to the officers of govern-
ment, and a thoufand other charges and inconve-
niences to which we muff now be fubjected : we
fhould have had nothing more to do, but to pay
when called upon, and obey when commanded.
This further confideration ought alfo to have fome
weight, that if we had been cruelly and unjuftly
oppreffed by a people three thoufand miles off, all
the world would have pitied our fituation, which
is no fmall confolation in trouble, and exclaimed
againft the tyranny of our oppreffors : whereas,
fliould things go wrong now, we fliall have none
to blame but ourfelves ; and when we complain,
the natural anfwer will be, if you have placed men
in power who abufe their truft, it is your own
fault : — why did you not make a better choice ?
Your fufferings are the effect of your own folly,
and therefore you deferve no pity. Thefe are fe-
rious confiderations. As to property being fecured
by political liberty, I would obferve that this is a
pofition more fpecious perhaps than true. The


r i9 j

payment of no taxes, but fuch as are levied by our
own confent, form a pretty arrangement of words
and ideas ; but, ftri&ly fpeaking, the fact is feldom
really fo. No man pays a tax with his own con-
fent, that is, he would rather not pay it, if he could
refufe with honour and fafety. The payment of
taxes is always attended with fome reluctance of
mind, and often with open murmurings and com-
plaints, either as to the time, purpofe, or propor-
tion of the tax. The cafe is quite otherwife when
money is taken from us by the flrong hand of ar-
bitrary power : all reafoning, all deliberation is
out of the queflion — we have nothing to do but
pay — and fo the mind is faved a deal of trouble and
vexation. This paying may, indeed, have a ten-
dency to poverty— and fo much the better ; for
poverty incites induflry, and induftry is the mother
of health and contentment.

To illuftrate my meaning by a familiar inflance :
fuppofe a traveller meets a friend on the road,
who requefts him to give or lend him a fmall fum
of money for a prefent purpofe : the traveller he-
rniates ; he cannot decently refufe ; and yet he
would rather the requeft had not been made:
in this conflict his mind fuffers no fmall anxie-

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