James Pyle Wickersham.

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of Historians, and their too often scanty and unre-
liable information, and the influences which may
have subsequently tended to pervert what was origi-
nally fairly represented, w^e may well wonder whether
there is any truth at all in History.

"Writers upon the Natural Sciences lessen the
labor of learners by making careful classifications —
classes, orders, genera, species. Without this, the
boldest student would hardly undertake the task
of mastering the vast multitude of facts which
these sciences now comprehend. The Facts of


History do not admit similar scientific classification.
Cotemporaneoiis events can be grouped together,
or an order of succession can be followed in nar-
rating Historical facts ; but that power of associa-
tion, so valuable to men of science, which enables
us to recall one thing from its resemblance to some-
thing else, cannot be used to much advantage in
the study of History.

Science in almost all her departments reveals a
series of efi^ects and causes — conditions and condi-
tioning. In nature, like causes produce like effects
regardless of time or place. Hence the truths dis-
covered by the ancient philosophers are valid to-
day. The events of History are not uncaused.
There may be chains of causation linking all of
them together. But he who regards the Facts of
History in the same light with which he regards
the facts of other sciences, will but poorly compre-
hend them. Man has a spiritual, as well as a mate-
rial, nature ; and this enables him to move against,
as well as with, nature. The building of a house,
the making of a law, the fighting of a battle, are
facts, very different in meaning, from the consolida-
tion of a rock, the uniting of an acid and an alkali,
or the rushing of a storm. The former class of
facts are the results of a free choice, while the
latter class are the effects of imperative laws.

These instances sufficiently exemplify the prin-
cipal peculiar difiiculties with which a student will
meet in the study of History. The want of their
appreciation has led both teachers and learners into
the most serious errors.


3. A Course of Study in the Facts of History.
— If all other studies were neglected, a life-time is
much too short to acquaint oneself fully with all
the Facts of History which have been thought
worthy of being recorded. Our schools can permit
their pupils to devote but a small portion of their
time to the study of History. Hence, the impor-
tance of the inquiry as to what parts of History
should be studied; and what order should be
observed in studying them.

The sources of Historical information open to
the student, may be classified as follows : first,
Detailed Histories, By these I mean Histories which
contain a full account of some particular nation,
state, or period of time. Some of these Histories
are very voluminous. Second, Universal Histories.
Universal Histories are such as profess to give an
account of all the most important Historical facts
in one connected narrative. They dififer greatly in
extent, the number of volumes in some instances
being but a few, and in others extending to more
than a hundred. Third, Compends of History/. These
contain brief outlines of some of the less interest-
ing or less important parts of History, with fuller
details respecting other parts. The most extensive
Compends of History correspond in fullness and
nature of details with the briefest Universal Histo-
ries. Fourth, Fragments of History. This class is
intended to embrace the Biographies of individuals,
Descriptions of particular places or events. Accounts
of travels, voyages, &c. They constitute the mate-
rials of w^hich History is made up, and may therefore
be considered Fragments of History.


I will now indicate a course of study in History
which will be found practical, and, I think, adapted
to the condition of our schools.

The first Historical matter I would place in the
hands of children to be read or studied would be
what I have denominated Fragments of History.
Children commence learning all things by frag-
ments ; and, if written in a suitable style, they will
read the kind of writings now designated with re-
markable avidity. Of this, the extensive sale of such
works as Goodrich's and Abbott's Histories, and the
Rollo Books, is a sufficient proof. This matter, in
the form of voyages, travels, biographical sketches,
historical narratives, may be arranged in lessons for
reading in schools, it may be studied and recited, or
it may be read at home. I cannot too earnestly in-
sist that it is the duty of parents and teachers to en-
courage children in a course of reading of the kind
now referred to. They can accumulate in this w^ay
a vast store of facts, before they reach the age of
twelve, and before this age the}^ are generally unable
to enter upon a more systematic course of stud3^

I would next require children to study in detail
the principal facts in the History of their native
land. -N'o one can well do without this knowledge,
and to the citizen it seems indispensable. The law
ought to require the History of the United States to
be taught in all puplic schools. I am well aware
that the History of one country cannot be fully un-
derstood without some knowledge of the Histories
of other countries with which it has been connected;
but teaching must begin somewhere, and less diffi-
culty will be found in commencing with the History


of one's own country than with that of distant
countries, or with general History. The reason is
that pupils are hetter acquainted with the events
that have transpired in their own country than with
those that have transpired in others, and are na-
turally more anxious to increase their knowledge in
respect to the former than in respect to the latter.

A knowledge of the History of their own country
is about all that can be expected of pupils in our
common schools; but pupils in High Schools, Acade-
mies, and Colleges should study a good Compend of
Universal History. This may be used as a text-book ;
but the teacher should enliven his instruction by
imparting many additional facts, and more Detailed
Histories should be at hand so that the pupils might
frequently refer to them. In this way, quite an ex-
tensive knowledge of History can be acquired.

It does not frequently happen that the time allotted
to History will permit a more comprehensive course
than that now indicated ; but, if so, I would recom-
mend the study of the Detailed Histories of those
Countries -in which we feel the deepest interest,
which have exerted th^e^greatest influence upon us,
or with which we are most closely connected.
Among these countries I need scarcely name Judea,
Greece, and Rome ; England, France, and Germany.
'No one who aspires to be a scholar can neglect the
reading of the Histories of these Countries, if he be
under the necessity of pursuing the study by him-
self. The Bible is the most important of all His-
tories, since it is the History of God's dealings with
men. Its truth is for all nations, for all tongues,
and for all people.

the facts of histoey. 421

4. General Suggestions in regard to Teaching
THE Facts of History. — There are two principal
methods of arrangement followed in writing works
on History, the Ethnographic and the Synchronistic.
The Ethnographic method narrates the History of a
particular race or nation, without reference to the
History of other races or other nations any further
than is necessary to illustrate or explain the main
design. Detailed Histories, in the sense I have
defined them, are Ethnographic in their method.
Following the Synchronistic method, an Historian
would group together and present in one view the
events of a particular era wherever they might have
occurred. Universal Histories and Compends of
History are usually arranged according to the Syn-
chronistic method. The teacher will at once 'per-
ceive that the best method to be followed in teachins:
depends upon the object he desires to attain. When
written. Histories may be studied in a Progressive or
a Regressive order. It is evident that, if events are
arranged in a chronological order, we can either
ascend the scale thus formed or descend it — we can
either proceed from antecedents to consequents or
from consequents to antecedents. Teachers usually
follow the progressive order, and for beginners, at
least, it is the most natural and the most interest-
ing. For advanced pupils and in reviews, I have
found the Regressive method productive of good

A knowledge of Geography and Anthropology
are very essential to the intelligent study of History.
Geography treats of the physical features of the
earth, and the present condition of society ; and this



forms the basis upon which rest the Facts, and, in
part, the Philosophy of History. The hnown in
History is the Present, and the Past can best be
understood by a comparison with it; for the causes
that modify our social relations ; give form to
Governments ; advance the interests of science, art,
education, and religion ; promote reformations, and
bring about revolutions — are the same now as in by-
gone centuries. Anthropology treats of man — his
body, his mind, his relations to the world about
him ; and this science is even more intimately con-
nected with the study of History than Geography.
Man lived History ; it is a record of himself; and
can be understood only by understanding himself.
Says Emerson, " Of the universal mind each indi-
vidual mind is one more incarnation. All its pro-
perties consist in him. Each new fact in his private
experience flashes a light on what great bodies of
men have done, and the crises of his life refer to
national crises. Every revolution was first a thought
in one man's mind, and when the same thought
occurs to another man, it is the key to that era.
Every reform was once a private opinion, and when
it shall be a private opinion again, it will solve the
problem of the age. The fact narrated must cor-
respond to something in me to be credible, or in-

The Plistorical facts communicated, and the man-
ner of communicating them should be such as to
attract the attention and enlist the sympathy of the
class of pupils for whom the instruction is intended.
A Hume's or a Hallam's, a Gibbon's or a Guizot's
Histories are works unsuitable for children, both in


matter and iu style. It is a common error in our
schools to place Histories of the United States in
the hands of children who cannot appreciate the
facts contained in them, or understand the language
in which they are written. The best that can be
expected under such circumstances is the mere
memorized recitation of the words of the text-book.
Facts of History can be found adapted to pupils of
any age, and expressed in forms which render them
agreeable to every taste ; and the teacher wdio fails
to do his duty in selecting them can offer but a poor

Our w^orks on History should present a lively
picture of the Past. Even the best Histories con-
tain much useless matter. It concerns us little to
know the lineage of kings and queens, the intrigues
of courts, or the plans of campaigns ; but it would
interest us much to be told how people in past times
built their houses, worked their fields, or educated
their children — what style of dress they wore, what
kind of food they eat, what books they read. We
want Encyclopedias and Gazetteers for reference,
and they may be full of dates, statistical tables, and
lists of names ; but school Histories should present
a true and life-like daguerreotype of things as they
were — not a mere dead body with bones, muscles,
and nerves minutely described, but without any soul
in it. There is no good reason why History should
not be as interesting to the young as Fiction. From
School Histories, let bald, dry facts be omitted ; let
the customs, manners, and doings of bygone people
— life's quiet ongoings as well as its comedies and
tragedies, be described in vivid word-pictures, and


History will become a favorite study in all our

History should be taught from a series of pro-
gressive stand-points. In the History of every
nation, there are certain prominent events from
which, as centres, other minor events have seemed
to emanate, and to which they bear reference. These
Historical nuclei with their connected circumstances
should be minutely described, and, if well estab-
lished in the learner's mind, he will recollect and
understand other less important events from their
relation to them. It is only of these great events
that we need to know the dates or the minute par-
ticulars. It seems a useless waste of time and labor
to commit to memory a great number of dates to
be speedily forgotten. These centres of influence
in History do not exist simply in the History of
particular nations, but they mark certain periods in
the History of the world. The whole of human
life is exhibited in a great drama, containing a
series of connected and dependent Acts — each sepa-
rated from the others by intervals of compara-
tive rest.

The style of Historical narrative should be clear,
concise, and forcible. Long, elaborate, ornate sen-
tences are out of place, at least, in Histories designed
for school text-books. It would be unnecessary to
make this suggestion, if the error it is intended to
point out were less general.

A knowledge of History can be turned to good
account in all the varied affairs of life; its study
furnishes valuable intellectual discipline, and for
the purposes of moral instruction its claims are of


a higher order than those of any other branch of
learning. 'No better opportunity of awakening vir-
tuous feelings can occur to the teacher than is pre-
sented in the study of History, and it is nowise out
of place here to urge that judicious advantage be
taken of it. Moral examples have more influence
upon the young than moral precepts. History pre-
sents many examples of good and great men and
women who honored by their noble deeds the age
and country in which they lived. The heart is
more easily moved to virtue by incidental than by
direct teaching; and the faithful teacher will not
fail to improve the occasions which so frequentl}^
occur in reciting lessons in History by planting
moral seeds in the open hearts about him, well
knowing that they wdll germinate and eventually
produce rich fruit. I^o study is so useful in the
formation of character as History. In the study
of all other sciences pupils come into the possession
of interesting facts and valuable principles, but in
the study of History they see life. Great deeds are
done by beings like themselves, and they cannot
resist the desire to do like deeds. This cultivates
the will, forms character, makes men.

A teacher may be greatly aided in teaching
History by using suitable maps, charts, engravings,
and books for reference. The customs, manners,
works of art, &c., which characterize the nations
of the Past might be represented in a series of
views by means of a Magic Lantern or a Stereo-
scope. An article of dress, an implement of war-
fare, the fragment of a statue, a coin used cen-



tiiries ago, if presented to illustrate a point in
History, would create much interest in the study.

II. Methods of Teaching the Philosophy of

The preceding discussion has had reference to
the Facts of History and the methods of teaching
them. Until quite recently, the Facts of History
constituted the whole of History. In other depart-
ments of study, investigations were pushed beyond
facts up to principles ; but the Historian seemed to
think his task well done when he had set in proper
array the actions of men and accompanied them
with such reflections as seemed to him calculated
either to interest or instruct his readers. It is not
hard to conceive why the science of History should
be later in its origin and slower in its growth than
other sciences. Its facts are less easily ascertained
and more difficult to verify ; the causes of these
facts are many times so hidden as to be considered,
even by wise men, inscrutable ; its generalizations
require broader views and a deeper insight; and its
ultimate formative principles are the most profound
which the human mind ever essayed to grapple.
Besides, in a hierarchy of the sciences, History
occupies the highest place. It extends its all-em-
bracing principles around all science, all art, all
human conduct, and combines them into one organic
whole ; finds unity in the diversity of the creation ;
and exhibits all things as the development of the
primal ideas after which God made them. A true
teacher will not stop when he has described the
facts of some historic era, and moralized upon


them. He will feel that something more is due
to students whom he debires to make thinkers than
to have them merely con life's fitful story, or gaze
at the strange drama man has acted upon the world's
broad stage.

The law of History has not been fully ascertained,
data may now be wanting to ascertain it; but
although all Historical phenomena cannot be fol-
lowed back to their primary causes or forward to
their ultimate effects, although no human intellect
can tell where the series of events began or when
it will end, to stop short of doing what may be
done, is to dwarf the intellect and take away much
that adds interest to the study of History.

If the condition of society is not the result of
chance, it must be due to the operation of laws.
When these laws are ascertained and formed into
a system, they constitute the Philosophy of History.
Upon the nature of this Philosophy must depend
the methods of teaching it, and this consideration
will determine the order of the present discussion.

1^0 argument will be entered upon here to dis-
prove the doctrine of chance. The doctrine is
such that no one can entertain it whose mental
vision is able to grasp even the most common con-
nexions and uniformities which are presented in
the world about him. JSTor is the doctrine more
applicable to the actions of men than to the works
of nature! In the latter case the regularities may
not be so apparent, but they are sufficiently so to
discard from the .minds of all who rightly reflect
upon them, the idea of chance ; and, if otherwise,


each individual knows that he has, and generally
he can give, a reason, good or bad, for the acts he
has committed.

If human actions are not the result of blind
chance working from no motive and directed to-
ward no end, they must be the effects of certain
causes — the consequents of certain antecedents,
and laws must rule the moral as well as the phy-
sical world. Philosophy presents no more impor-
tant and no more difficult problem than that which
relates to the origin of these laws. Solve this ; and
there is solved the great problem of History — the
great problem of humanity.

The laws from wman from this source.
It does not follow because man originates an end



in his own Reason with reference to which he acts,
that a Science of History is impossible. Quite
otherwise, unless he acts in view of such an end,
there can be no true science of anything. Besides,
each individual life in the unity of its several stages,
exemplifies the life of the race, and self-reflection
will enable one to solve some of the most profound
problems in History ; and no man who reflects about
himself has ever failed to acknowledge his responsi-
bility for his acts — a fact totally irreconcilable with
the doctrine of I^ecessity.

Unless a spontaneous cause be found in the human
mind, it seems impossible to account for the influ-
ence upon society exerted by belief and thought.
Says Mill : " Every considerable advance in material
civilization has been preceded by an advance in
knowledge ; and when any great social change has
come to pass, a great change in the opinions and
modes of thinking of society had taken place. Poly-
theism, Judaism, Christianity, Protestantism, the
negative philosophy of modern Europe, and its posi-
tive science — each of these has been a primary agent
in making society what it was at each successive
period, while society was but secondarily instru-
mental in making them, each of them (so far as
causes can be assigned for its existence) being mainly
an emanation, not from the practical life of the
period, but from the state of belief and thought
during sometime previous." Can it be supposed
that ''belief and thought" from which come such
results are attributable to the ordinary operation of
physical causes upon mind ? Can man move only
with the wheel of nature? Did God make the


world and then witlidraw forever His creating hand ?
All we know of social phenomena seem to me to
furnish a negative response.

The Philosophy of History has been more care-
full}^ studied in Germany than in any other country,
and as the subject is one of the most vital impor-
tance, I will present the opinions of a few of the
greatest German thinkers in illustration of the views
here taken.

Kant says : " Reason is the faculty which furnishes
the principles of cognition a priori.'' If principles
are furnished at all by the reason, it is evident that
these principles may become objects of desire —
ends of action, and thus move the will so to act that
the conduct may be in conformity thereto. And,
after all, the freedom of the will must be determined
by determining the sources of knowledge. It is well
ascertained that for every act of Knowing there may
be an act of Feeling, and consequently an act of
Willing. We know through the senses, and of
course our conduct is influenced by the world of
sense ; but if the mind has power to cognize princi-
ples evolv'ed from itself — and we have previously
shown that it has this power — then, may the con-
duct be influenced by these principles, and man
ei.ther is or may become a Free Agent. Had Kant
written a Philosophy of History, he would not have
overlooked the effects attributable to the autonomic
potency of the human spirit.

Fichte's system consists of a Theoretical and a
Practical division. The fundamental axiom of his
Practical division is, " That tl^e not-me is affirmed
as determined by the we." This proposition, whether


true or false, indicates to those who "anderstand it,
with sufficient clearness, the author's opinions in
regard to the Historic element now under discus-
sion. But his views are further expressed bj Morell
as follows : "The mind has a purely rational nature,
by virtue of which it sets before itself.its own aim,
the object of its own free activity. To deny this
would be to deny the very existence of mind itself:
to ask why it is so, would be to ask why truth is
truth." Fichte's "Idea of Universal History" is
that of a free spirit struggling to surmount obsta-
cles of its own creation, " seeking to bring into
actual existence all that lies potentially in its con-
sciousness." This constitutes his "world-plan" and
designates his place among writers on the Philoso-
phy of History.

Schelling maintains the existence of a faculty
which intuitively discovers the Absolute. A mind
possessing such a faculty must be in some sense free
in its actions. But we are not left to inference in
regard to Schelling' s views of Histor3\ Morell
states them as follows : " History is the absolute
combination of the freedom of the individual with
the necessary development of the race. Every act
of which History is composed is a free act ; and yet
man, with all his freedom, cannot help contributing
to the accomplishment of the destiny of the whole
nation and whole race to which he belongs."

Hegel starts out with the astounding proposition
that Sein = Nichts, or that Being equals Nothing ; and
derives the idea of existence from the combination
or contradiction of^Being and Nothing. From this
point he proceeds to expound in a series of logical


triads the origin and laws of matter, the life of man,
and the process hy which God himself is realized —

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 27 of 31)