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Lincoln Phelps.

Lectures to young ladies, comprising outlines and applications of the different branches of female education, for the use of female schools, and private libraries online

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and yet, for want of some connecting principle, the
knowledge acquired would neither be useful or per-
manent. Guthrie's geography was a voluminous work,
containing a great mass of matter, but equally unphilo-
sophical in its arrangement as other cotemporaneous
works.

It is within the last fifteen years, that the present meth-
od of teaching geography by maps, has been introduced.
For some time after geographies were accompanied with
atlasses, no attempt was made to teach the drawing
of maps, except in a laborious and unprofitable man-
ner, which occupied weeks, and even months, with
little other advantage than that of giving to the pu-
pil neatness of execution. This method consisted of
delineating maps upon paper, and coloring and print-
ing them. These maps had a very pretty appear-

* It was the intention of the author when preparing these lec-
tures for the press, to have included in one volume the different
departments of education, as well as lectures on the duties of ed-
ucated women in their various relations ; but the literary depart-
ment seemed to embrace too many subjects to be examined with-
in the space at first allotted to it. The more important subjects
which remain, the author proposes to include in a second volume.



MODERN GEOGRAPHY. 119

ance, but, as they were often drawn by tracing on
paper laid over the original ; the mind of the pupil
was usually too intent on the mechanical performance
to think of the relative situation of places. A young
lady, after spending three months at a boarding school,
and having drawn and painted a map, was considered
as well versed in geography, though in truth she might
be almost as ignorant of the science as the uncon-
scious material on whose surface her map had been de-
lineated.

The system of teaching geography as, published by
Mrs. TV^illard and Mr. Woodbridge, in their series of geo-
graphical works,* was introduced by the former into her
school in Middlebury, Vermont, about the year 1816.
She had no books which contained her plan, and taught
her pupils from her own manuscripts. She made
great use of maps in every recitation. The exercise
of the pupil in drawing maps upon the black board
is an improvement of still later date. You can all
bear witness that this is a most effectual method of im-
printing on the mind the contiguity and relative situa-
tions of countries. Another great improvement in teach-
ing this science is that the pupil now commences with
his own town and country, and proceeds from thence to
distant places.

It seems, at this period, absurd to imagine a child re-
ceiving for his first lesson in geography, a description of

* Some years before the publication of these books, Mrs. Wil-
lard communicated to me her intention of preparing a geography
on a new plan She remarked that on the method then in use
the principles of generalization seemed to be left out of the ques-
tion ; that instead of taking up each country singly, giving an
account of its civilization, manufactures, state of education, reli-
gions, &c., these subjects should be treated of under separate
heads, and thus comparison and generalization be made to aid the
memory, while at the same time this method of arrangement
would prove a useful discipline to those mental powers which
were by its means called into operation. Mrs. W. remarked, that a
work on such a plan would cause a new era in teaching the sci-
ence of geography. I considered this at the time a bold assertion;
but the general adoption of this method, the distinctive features
of which are more fully developed in the Universal Geography
80 admirably executed by Mr. Woodbridge, establish its truth



120 MODERN GEOGRAPHY.

the solar system ; for the next, a mathematical account
of the divisions of the earth, and then of being carried to
Africa, Europe, and Asia, before a word is said of his
own country. We now reverse this method, and in Mrs.
Willard's ' Geography for Beginners, 5 the teacher is di-
rected to present the child with a map of his own town,
to direct his attention to the river before his own door,
to the mountains which are in sight, and the towns
which bound his own native place.*

The word geography is derived from the Greek ge t
the earth, and grapho, to delineate ; but its primitive
signification of a delineation of the earth has been grad-
ually extended, so that now, geography includes a de-
scription of climates, soil and productions, and even of
the moral and intellectual character of mankind.

The science of geography is intimately connected with
astronomy ; even our knowledge of the figure of the earth
is derived from observing its shadow upon the moon,
when in eclipse. An eclipse, as you well know, is
caused by the shadow of the earth falling upon the
moon ; this shadow being always bounded by a cir-
cular line, proves that the body which caused it is
round. In the early ages of mankind the earth was
supposed to be a round flat surface, terminated by an
immeasurable gulf. Each barbarous nation supposed
itself in the centre of this great plain. Some supposed that
the earth rested upon the back of an enormous elephant ;
and the elephant rested upon a huge tortoise ; but here
arose a greater difficulty than at first, since the whole
was then to be supported by sjme new monster. You
perceive how ridiculous are such hypotheses ; but they
are not more so than a thousand others which were
received by mankind in their rude state.

* By teaching pupils in this simple manner, an instruct-
er would have no cause to fear those blunders which are
sometimes made by pupils when taught definitions before they
are made to understand facts. A teacher, who had faithfully la-
bored to prepare a class for examination, asked a young Miss who
stood at the head, < What is Geography?' The pupil, much to
the entertainment of the audience and chagrin of her instructer,
promptly and audibly answered, ' Geography is a large ball, or
globe.'



MODERN GEOGRAPHY.



121



By astronomy we learn the existence of what is called
the Solar System, having for its centre the sun, around
which revolve several wo;lds or planets : the earth we
inhabit being the third in order from the sun, and travel-
ling in a path called its orbit, around this great luminary,
once, in a period of time, which we call a year. This
journey causes summer and winter : for when the earth
is in that part of its orbit where the sun shines directly
upon it, we have summer, and when in that part where
the sun's rays fall obliquely we have winter. Our days
are longer in summer, and shorter in winter, from our
change of situation with respect to the sun.

Although it is the real motion of the earth around the
sun which causes the changes in their relative situations,
yet to us, the sun is apparently approaching to, and
receding from the earth. In March and September,
the sun appears to be at the equator, and the days and
nights are equal in all parts of the world.* After the
20th of March, the sun appears to advance towards us,
and in June it appears at the tropic of Cancer, which is
its northern boundary ; after this it turns back and pur-
sues its course towards the southern tropic, which it
reaches in six months.

We learn by astronomy that the planets, and our
earth among the number, turn as if upon an axis once in
a given period of time. The earth turns completely
round, in a period of time which we call a day. This
day we divide into twenty-four parts, each of which we
call an hour. But the term day is used in another
sense, viz. to denote the presence of the sun, while its
absence is called night. Thus when the earth, in its
turning round, carries the side we are upon away from
the sun, we have night; when we are carried towards
the sun, we have day.

The division of the earth into zones is made with
reference to the sun those parts of the earth over which
the sun is sometimes directly overhead are called the torrid
or burning zone. In the temperate zones the sun is

* These periods are called the equinoxes, from cequs, equal, and
nox, night ; the night then being equal to the day.

11



122 MODERN GEOGRAPHY.

never vertical, but the length of the days is not over
twenty-four hours. The other two zones are the frigid j
on these the sun shines very obliquely. They have days
varying in length from twenty-four hours to six months.
That department of geography which treats of the various
circles supposed to be described on its surface, as parallels
of latitude, meridians, &c., is called mathematical geo-
graphy.

But we have not yet considered what supports the
earth. Wonderful as it may seem the earth stands upon
nothing ; like the moon and sun it is suspended in the hea-
vens without support. You know that even a little ball will
not remain in the air without being supported by some-
thing : why does the ball fall to the ground ? Why do
all heavy bodies fall 1 We answer, that they are attract-
ed to the earth by a force called gravitation. Now the
earth, strange as it may seem, is kept from falling by
the -very power which causes a stone to fall.

The sun, by the force of gravitation, attracts the
earth towards it ; but the earth, when commencing its
course, received from its Creator an impulse tending to
carry it in a direction directly contrary to the sun:
the force of gravitation tends as you see to carry it
directly towards the sun; but the earth obeying neither
forc.j, though influenced by both, takes a middle course,
and is thus kept moving round the sun. The connexion
of the earth with the sun and other heavenly bodies is
called Astronomical Geography.

Physical or Natural Geography is a very comprehen-
sive science; it includes a knowledge of the materials
of which the earth is composed. This knowledge
embraces the science of Geology, which names and
arranges the rocks and other materials which compose
the earth ; and of Chemistry, which teaches the constitu-
ent elements of these substances. Thus you see, that
sciences which may appear distinct, have an intimate
connexion with each other, since geology and chemistry
are necessary to a complete knowledge of geography.
Physical geography also comprehends a knowledge of
those substances which grow out of the earth, and this
knowledge is called Botany.



MODERN GEOGRAPHY. 123

We will suppose ourselves to be seated in a balloon, suffi-
ciently elevated above the surface -of the earth to be able
to distinguish its general figure and surface. Let us
look first at its figure. We behold, suspended as it would
seern in empty space, though in reality surrounded by the
material substance air, a large ball, not exactly round,
but a little flattened at each end or pole. This ball pre-
sents an uneven surface: while it is turning around from
west to east, let us examine the various objects which
appear. For this we must approach nearer. Here we
see a long strip of land extending almost from one pole to
the other ; nearly in the centre it seems penetrated by
an arm of the ocean: this must be the great American
continent, separated by the Gulf of Mexico into a north-
ern and southern part.

We will suppose that our balloon is somewhat lowered
and directed over the northern part of this great conti-
nent; and what do we now see? On two sides are vat
oceans, washing its eastern and western coasts, and on,
the north an ocean of ice separates it from the north
pole. Do you observe that chain of lakes? These are
called the Great Lakes, being the largest in the world.
Let us approach nearer. Do you hear a sound like the
rush of mighty waters? It is the thundering Niagara,
which had poured forth its mass of waters, long be-
fore man had heard the roar of its cataract. But
what becomes of this vast collection of water? It
hurries onward, forming mighty rivers and lakes, until it
becomes lost in the great ocean, which you see on the
east.

But we must not, in the sublimity of this scene, forget
that we have other observations to make. Let us direct
our course towards the middle of this country, which we
call North America. There, from the north, flows a
majestic river, receiving in its course many noble
streams ; one, rapid and turbulent, bringing along mud
and roots and trunks of trees ton* up in its fury, comes
foaming from the west ; another, scarcely less rapid in
its course, comes from the east: the parent river,
embracing them both with many other tributary streams^,
bears them on to the southern gul



124 MODERN GEOGRAPHY.

You see here an extensive country, through which
the rivers descend from the north, from the east and
west: this is called a basin, and many delightful val-
leys and plains does it contain ; its sides on the west and
east are the Rocky Mountains, and the Apalachian on
the north, a high ridge which divides the waters that
flow towards the northern ocean from those which run
towards the southern gulf.

We will now go eastward, and pass that great chain
of mountains which may well be called the back bone
of our country. We are now on its eastern side. Look,
and you will see many rivers flowing towards the
eastern ocean. Do you observe the north-eastern part
of the section of country we are now viewing? You
may there see mountains with snow-covered tops ; and
farther west, another chain whose summits and sides are
always verdant : between these mountains, pursuing a
southern course, a river is seen whose progress at first seem
hurried, but by degrees its youthful impetuosity subsides,
and, with calm and placid motion, it bears itself on to
an arm of the ocean, running in from the east, and
forming the southern boundary to a lovely country. The
valley of this river is adorned with the ornaments of art
and the richest gifts of nature. This valley, and an
extensive territory on the east and west of it are called
New England, or the country of the pilgrims. History
will tell you why these names are given.

But our aerial journey is becoming too long : we must
retrace pur way from the happy valley of the Connecti-
cut. Let us go westward, and descend near to the earth
here we see our own Hudson, carrying on its bosom
innumerable little objects, passing and repassing in rapid
motion, as if actuated by a spirit of intelligence ; but, al-
though not gifted with intelligence themselves, they are
directed in their course by intelligent minds, and filled
v/ith rational beings, intent on business or pleasure. These
steam-boats exhibit one of the proudest victories which
mind has ever achieved over matter ; two destructive
elements being made subservient to man's convenience,
and obedient to his will.

We have now arrived at the place where the Hudson



MODERN GEOGRAPHY. 125

river ceases to be navigable ; and here, in a little flour-
ishing city on its eastern bank, we will alight from our
imaginary balloon, and close our voyage of discovery.

Such are some of the observations of physical geogra-
phy ; in order to understand it, you must in imagination
combine at one view the great features of nature
oceans, lakes and rivers, continents and islands, table-
lands, basins, plains, valleys, and deserts : these are all
the subjects of this science.

The geological character of mountains, and the for-
mation of countries are also to be noticed. Wh^n you
know the geological features of a country, you can form
a probable estimate of the character of its soil, the quan-
tity of its water, arid the number and appear* nee of its
caves. You can tell whether it is likely to contain coal
or salt mines, iron or precious metals, and even the
plants which would probably be found in it. What is
still more wonderful, you can form some judgment of
the moral character of a people, from the nature of the
soil. Switzerland is famous for its rugged soil, its pure
air and water, and its patriotic and independent inhabit-
ants. It is a primitive country, and such a formation
requires hard labor for its cultivation. The effect of la-
bor is to form the character of a people to habits of or-
der and industry, and to render them independent of oth-
ers : independence produces a nobleness and elevation
of feeling, and courage to resist oppression.

A country having a secondary or alluvial formation, is
generally fertile ; nature almost spontaneously brings
forth sustenance for its inhabitants. Not compelled tp
labor, and ignorant of intellectual enjoyments, man de-
generates ; he seeks only to gratify his senses, and easi-
ly becomes a slave to those who will protect and
defend him. Slavery, in its turn, still further debases the
wretched human being. The situation of the peasants
of Turkey, of Spain and Italy, may illustrate the influ-
ence of a fertile soil upon the moral character of a peo-
ple.

But I have, in remarking on national character, anti-
cipated what belongs to Civil or Political Geography,
whose province it is to describe the moral condition of
11*



126 MODERN GEOGRAPHY.

mankind, including their religion, forms of government,
moral and intellectual improvement. This view of the
world is sometimes called Historical geography.

You will now see that geography is not a science of
memory alone, consisting of mechanical recitations of
the names of places, and the situations of countries,
rivers and mountains. It is necessary to learn to view
things in detail, and then in general, to compare and
reflect in order to become acquainted with geog-
raphy. And thus you perceive, that although this
science is highly useful for the information which it com-
municates, it also, when properly investigated, serves to
develope and improve the faculties of reason and judg-
ment, and elevate the moral character.

Besides Mathematical, Astronomical, Physical and
Political geography there is another department of this
scienjce called Statistical geography, or that which gives an
account of the length and breadth, population, bounda-
ries and commerce of different countries.

The study of geography tends to give enlarged and
comprehensive views respecting the earth we inhabit.
While this science was unknown, and mankind in igno-
rance of the world on which they lived, the most dark
and superstitious fears prevailed with respect to the
living beings who were supposed to exist in certain un-
known regions. Even the Romans, enlightened as they
were for the period in which they flourished, supposed
the hordes of barbarians who poured in upon them, were
absolutely without limits, as to numbers, or in the extent
of their country. Panic-struck by these terrors, the
Romans thus became an easy prey to a people whom
they thought it would be in vain to resist.

The descendants of the Romans, afterwards con-
demned the philosopher Galileo to perpetual imprison-
ment, for daring to assert that the earth was round, and
moved on an imaginary axis. Spigelius, a bishop of
Topsal in Sweden, was burnt at the stake, for expressing
his belief in the gobularform of the earth, and that there
might be people who had night when it was day in
Sweden, and day when it was night there, or that were



MODERN GEOGRAPHY. 127

their antipodes.* This doctrine was by the superstitious
and ignorant monks declared to be ' a proposition absurd
in its very nature, false in philosophy, heretical in
religion, and contrary to the holy Scriptures.'

The discovery of the true figure of the earth has been
of incalculable advantage to mankind. Indeed, we
cannot, without pity, think of the period when the
European knew nothing of the earth, but of his own
comparatively little continent. All else was dark and
mysterious as the regions beyond the grave.

You have read of the difficulties encountered by
Columbus in obtaining the assistance necessary to pros-
ecute a voyage, in which he believed that some great
discovery awaited him. We cannot, however, appreciate
the feelings which agitated him, as hope and fear for the
desired aid prevailed. By study and observation he
had become convinced of the spherical figure of the
earth, and at first only thought of finding a better way
of sailing to the East Indies than by the long and dan-
gerous passage around the Cape of Good Hope ; but on
further reflection, he thought a wise Creator would not
have made the proportion of water so much greater than
that of land, and therefore inferred the existence of
another continent.

While his mind was laboring with these grand ideas,
and impressed with the immense importance of ascertain-
ing the correctness of his reasoning, he was, as is often the
case with those who attempt great things, treated by many
as a madman, or a fool. We may, my dear pupils, justly feel
a pride in the thought, that a woman was the first to com-
prehend the sublime conceptions of Columbus ; and provi-
dential indeed does it appear that this woman was a sove-
reign, able as well as willing to aid the genius which
her mind appreciated. Isabella let the daughters of
Columbia ever hold thy name in reverence ! let them re-
member that, without thy aid, their own dear country
might even now have been a wilderness, shared by
the savage heathen and the scarcely more savage beast
of the forest !

* Antipodes is from two Greek words, anti, opposite, and podos,
feet ; meaning people who live on opposite sides of the globe, and
whose feet are therefore directly opposite.



128 ANCIENT GEOGRAPHY.



Ancient Geography.

Geography is properly divided into Ancient and Modern.
Acient geography commences with describing coun-
tries known in the remotest antiquity respecting which
we have any information. Although writers agree in
dividing both geography and history into ancient and
modern, they differ as to the point of time most proper
for their separation. While some fix this at the extinc-
tion of the western empire of the Romans, A. D. 476,
others prefer to divide at the commencement of the New
Western Empire, under Charlemagne, A. D. 800. A
third period, and one which evidently seems the most
proper, is the birth of our Saviour.

This is considered as having taken place 4004 years
after the creation. The whole Christian world now reck-
on time from the birth of Christ : thus we date A. D.
(Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord) 1831; that is,
so many years have passed since his birth. So in public
acts, officers of the government date from the indepen-
dence of our country, it being at this time the fifty-seventh
year of American Independence.

Should there be those eighteen hundred years hence
who should dispute the fact of such an event as the re-
volution in which America became an independent na-
tion, and at. the same time should public acts continue
to be dated from this event, would not this very circum-
stance substantiate the fact 1

When did any people or any individual begin to date
from an event which never took place ? Were there no
other proof of the appearance in the world of Jesus Christ,
it would seem as if the fact of so great a portion of
mankind reckoning from such an event might convince
the most sceptical. Or, if he was nothing more than an
obscure carpenter, who imposed on a few ignorant fisher-
men, until he was finally put to death for his blasphemies,
how has it happened that his birth, after a period of more
than 1800 years, is considered a more important event than
the creation itself? Even the Deist, who ridicules the Chris-
tian for what he calls his credulity, dates from the birth of



ANCIENT GEOGRAPHY. 129

Christ. Which, we would ask, is the more credulous,
the sceptic who believes things can happen without a
cause, or he who relies on evidence the most certain 1

The study of ancient geography is not to be commen-
ced before some aquaintance with modern. After learn-
ing in the latter the situations and boundaries of places,
it is not difficult to connect with them the names by
which they were anciently known : thus Caledonia easi-
ly becomes associated with the more modern name Scot-
land, Hibernia with Ireland, Hispania with Spain, Gaul
with France, &>c. Ancient geography teaches how
much the boundaries and extent of countries have changed
and what part of the world was known or unknown to
the ancients.*

A knowledge of Ancient geography is very important
to a right understanding of the sacred writings, and
Ancient History. The nations mentioned in the Old
Testament have long since ceased to exist. Of the As-
syrian, Babylonian, Egyptian and Syrian empires, noth-
ing but the names now remains. Their proud capitals,
Nineveh, Babylon, Thebes, Tyre and Sidon have disap-
peared fiom the earth, and scarcely do we know the
places which they once so proudly occupied.


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Online LibraryLincoln PhelpsLectures to young ladies, comprising outlines and applications of the different branches of female education, for the use of female schools, and private libraries → online text (page 11 of 27)