William Shepherd.

Systematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 44)
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^stematic Cbucatton:





practical Battles



By the Rev. W. SHEPHERD,
The Rev. J. JOYCE, ^ '







i. M'Creerjr, Printer, BUck-Hort>-Coart,

^ U6



1 HE important period of human life, which com-
^mences when young persons are freed from the
.^restraint of school discipline, is often ill spent, for
want of some useful object of mental pursuit. The
living instructor is, perhaps, not at hand to point
out a course of study; and many an ingenuous
youth falls into the habit of desultory and baneful
reading, who, with proper guidance, might have
formed a decided taste for the acquisition of whole-
some knowledge, in the prosecution of which he
might have improved his mind, and have been pre-
served from frivolity and vice. Influenced by these
considerations, the Authors of *' Systematic Educa-
tion" have had it in view to supply those, who are
between sixteen and twenty-five years of age, with
such guidance. They have endeavoured to offer
such elementary instruction as may afford a good
preparative for future reading, and to point out the
best sources of farther information on the subjects
of which they treat. It has been their aim to
compress within a narrow compass, a great fund
of important knowledge, which could only be
obtained by the perusal of a multitude of volumes j




and they flatter themselves that, on some topics,
their Elements will supply materials for instruction
not unworthy the attention of the Preceptor,
who may be engaged in conducting the studies of
pupils somewhat advanced in scholastic attain-

As they have endeavoured to give a correct and
familiar introduction to the principal departments
of scientific and literary inquiry, they are not
without hopes that their work will be found an
useful text-book in those schools where instruction
comprehends other objects besides the Classics;
and that it will be of eminent service to those
young persons in the process of whose early edu-
cation the Classics have been almost the exclusive
subject of attention.

This exposition of the work now offered to the
public would be abundantly sufficient, if it fell
into the hands only of the uninitiated, and of those
who are engaged in the business of instructing
others. For the former, it is believed, it may be
reckoned a safe, if not an ample guide to useful
and important knowledge : the latter require no
apology, they know the difficulties of compressing
into a small compass, a syllabus even, of a great
variety of subjects. From both these classes,
therefore, the authors of " Systematic Education"
expect a candid reception.

To the learned and the critic they have nothing
to offer : their aim was to supply a work, which,
as far as they know, has hitherto been unattempt-
ed, that might assist the unskilful, not only as a


guide to what they wished to pursue, but such a
one as should afford them a choice of subjects
from which they might select subjects adapted
to their taste, their acquirements, or their
wants ; and having made their election, they will
find the introductory principles laid down, ex-
plained and exemplified, and a course of study
pointed out, with references to such elementary
works as may be adapted to their wishes, and to
the time they have to devote to literature and
science. With such views, to have attempted any
thing like deep learning, or profound research,
would have been out of place. While they
have avoided this error, they have kept clear from
giving mere abridgments, with which they could
have readily filled their volumes at a small expense
of time. From works of their own, already be-
fore the public, in some shape or other, they have,
on some few occasions, freely borrowed, and in a
few instances from those of others ; but, in every
case, it is believed, full and constant references are
given, and due acknowledgments are made for the
advantages which they have derived, and which
they wished their readers to derive from this line of

Having thus briefly detailed the objects and plan
of their Work, they respectfully submit the deci-
sion, as to its merits in point of execution, to the
candour of an enlightened public.




Introduction, containing a Practical Essay on
Education . . ^. . 1

Chap. I. On the Study of the Belles Lettres . . 35
II. On Language 49

III. On Grammar 62

IV. Continued 86

V. Structure of Sentences 103

VI. Continued . .114

VII. Continued . .123

Vin. On Taste . ; 133

IX. On Figurative Language 144

X. Continued . 154

XI. Prose Composition l67

XII. On Poetry 176

XIII. Continued 187

XIV. Continued . . . , . .197-

XV. On Elocution 212

XVI. Method of studying the Belles Lettres 226

XVII. On'History . 240

XVIII. Ancient History 258

> -



Chaf. XIX. Modern History 272

XX. On Geographj/ 296

XXI. Continued .... 316

XXII. Jncient Geography 330

XXIII. On Chronology 340

XXIV. Continued . . . .357

XXV. Continued .... 370

XXVI. On the British Constitution . . . 385

XXVII. Continued 399

XXVllI. Mathematics, Arithmetic . . . .414

XXIX. Jlgebra 433

XXX. Geometry . . . . .457

XXXI. Trigonometry . . .476

XXXII. Conic Sections, Flux-
ions, Chances, S^c 493

XXXIII. Navigation, Mensura-
tion, Surveying, and Dialling . .517

Directions to the Binder.

Vol. I. Plate Mathematics, . to face p. 540
II. I. Mechanics . . '' i6

II. Hydrostatics and

Pneumatics . 44

III. Optics .... 74

IV. Electricity and

VOLTAISM . . . 104

V. Astronomy . . 136

^ VI. Chemistry . . . 174

VII. &VIII. Structure and Func-
tions OF MAN. . 567 & 568



IN nothing is man more eminently distinguished from the
inferior animals, than in the capacity of incrawng in know-
ledge. The process of instinct is, indeed, rapid, and its results
are perfect in their kind ; but those results are limited within
comparatively narrow boundaries. Though various species
of birds construct their nests with exquisite skill, in the man-
ner which is best adapted to their habits, and to the promotion
of their security, yet from generation to generation the mode
of their construction is exactly the same. The bee is no
sooner furnished with wings, than it speeds its flight in quest
of its proper food; which it stores up in cells, that, from
the commencement of time, have been uniform in size and
in figure. Not so with man. The degrees and the species
of art and skill exhibited by the human race, are almost infi-
nitely varied ; and a long space of time must intervene before
any individual can attain to that measure of knowledge which
he is capable of acquiring. This apparent disadvantage, how-
ever, is amply compensated by the wide range allowed to
human intellect ; and by the capacity of mental improvement,
which is continued almost through the whole of life ; and,
which, though it may be apparently suspended by the infirmi-
ties incident to extreme old age, and by the common doom



of mortality, will, as it is hoped, and as we are taught to
believe, be continued through the endless ages of eternity.
Upon this subject, how beautiful, and at the same time how
rational, are the speculations of Addison : " There is not, in
my opinion, a more pleasing and triumphant consideration
in religion, than this, of the perpetual progress which the
soul makes toward the perfection of its nature, without ever
arriving at a period in it. To look upon the soul as going
on from strength to strength ; to consider that she is to
shine for ever with new accessions of glory, and brighten
to all eternity ; that she will be still adding virtue to virtue,
and knowledge to knowledge ; carries in it something won-
derfully agreeable to that ambition which is natural to the
mind of man. Nay, it must be a prospect pleasing to God
himself, to see his creation for ever beautifying in his eyes,
and drawing nearer to Him by greater degrees of resem-

It is a striking circumstance, that a being who is bom to
this high destiny, should, after the period of his birth, continue
in a state of helplessness for a longer space of time than any
other creature. With relation to man, it may truly, and empha-
tically be said, tliat perfection is of tardy growth. The beasts
of the field are soon enabled to provide for themselves their
proper sustenance and shelter ; and when they are arrived at
this stage of maturity, they either voluntarily and peaceably
quit, or are forcibly driven from, the protection of the authors
of their being. The same law holds good w ith respect to the
fowls of the air, and other tribes of inferior beings. But with
regard to man, how long does the imbecility of infancy de-
mand the solicitude of parental care ! For how lengthened a
season does the ignorance, the inexperience, the levity, and
the rashness of youth, occupy the vigilant attention of guar-
dians, instructors, and friends. Even in more advanced life,
what lessons remain to be learnt in the severe school of expe-
rience, how many errors remain to be corrected by the pain-
ful progress of events. Thus feeble in his outset is the Lord


of the Creation thus unpromising is the commencement of
a career of improvement which admits of continual advance.

However high and capacious* then are the powers which
" lie folded up in man," it seems to be the law of nature,
or to speak more correctly, it seems to be the will of our all-
wise Creator, that those powers must be expanded by de-
grees, and that their expansion must be effected by the pro-
cess of education.

In one sense indeed, and that a very important one, the
process of Education is perpetually going forward. Man,
regarded as a moral agent, and an accountable being, is a
compound of habits. According as his habits are good or
bad, he is to be esteemed or qualified as virtuous or vicious.
Now it is a matter of common observation, that the habits of
an individual are generally formed in consequence of the pre-
cepts with which he is imbued and in a much greater degree,
in consequence of the examples which are presented for his
imitation. Whosoever, therefore, is under the influence either
of the conduct, or of the principles of others, (and who is
not under such influence ?) may be justly said to be so far edu-
cated by them to moral good or ill. Much is it to be wished,
that those who are interested in the welfare of youth, would
attend to this most serious maxim. It would preserve them
from many pernicious errors, and would convince them of
the folly of entertaining unreasonable and inconsistent expec-
tations. Such is the homage which vice pays to virtue, that
many a parent, who is himself by no means scrupulous of
violating the rules of morality, is startled at the idea of early
profligacy in his ofi'spring. With a view of promoting the
mental improvement of his son, he provides for him instruc-
tors in various departments of knowledge. He spares no
expense to promote his progress in science. He is anxious
to receive what he imagines he is entitled to expect as the
fruit of his parental attention and care. But he is disappoint-
ed.. The child of his hopes, instead of a prodigy of learning
and of knowledge, is, when far advanced in the season of

B 2


youth, found to be deplorably ignorant, self-willed, and un-.
tractable. He despises the idea of qualifying himself by use-
ful studies, to adorn the station in life which his birth and
his fortune entitle him to occupy. He is given up to frivolity,
and, having no good qualities, no estimable accomplishments
to recommend him to honourable notice, he glories in his
vices, and makes a public spectacle of his depravity. Shocked
and disgusted, the mortified parent vents his feelings in exe-
crations against the indolence and unfaithfulness of tutors and
preceptors, when in reality he himself is alone to blame. His
manners may have been comparatively decent, but he has
unfortunately disregarded the maxim of the stern satirist,

Maxima debetur paero reverentia.

He has thoughtlessly permitted his offspring to witness hia
irregularities and by this combination of wickedness and
folly, he has at an early age blunted in his child the sense of
moral obligation. In the pursuit of what he deemed allow-
able amusements, he has permitted the heir of his fortune to
associate, under little or no restraint, with cunning and pro-
fligate domestics, who were ever ready to minister to the
vices oi their superiors. Thus has he in fact trained him up
in low ideas and to mean pursuits, and yet he wonders at his
unworthy and unbecoming propensities. But his wonder
would cease, could he penetrate the mikt winch is poured
before the mental eye by the power of self-partiality. Then
would he be sensible of the capital error into which he has
unconsciously fallen ; and, however unpleasant the truth might
be, he would be convinced, that his ideas on tlie subject of
the training of youth have been incorrect, and inadequate,
and that the miserable and disgraceful scenes which he ha,s
witnessed with so much pain and concern, are the conse-
quences the natiu'al and necessary consequences of his son's
education having been conducted more in the orgies of his
father's dining-room, or in the purlieus of the stable-yard, than
iu the retirement of the library, or in the apartment of liis


tutor. In order to form a moral agent to the highest degree
of excellence of which he is capable, the most guarded vigi-
lance over the propensities of early youth, is requisite on the
part of natural superintendents and it seems to be the wise
ordinance of providence, that the anxiety which parents uni-
versally entertain for the welfare of their offspring, is calculat-
ed, when properly directed, to become a strong promoter,
and a steady safeguard of virtue.

If we may give credence to the records of remote antiquity,
the institutions of one ancient nation, in order to obviate the
mischiefs produced by the ignorance or the inattention of pa-
rents, provided, by compulsory laws, for the pnblic education,
according to an established system, of all children born within
its precincts ; and there have not been wanting philosophers
both of ancient and of modern times, who, maintaining the
principle, that a state has a paramount interest in the welfare
and good conduct of those who are born within its limits,
have vindicated and applauded such institutions. Speculation*
of this description, do not, however, seem to merit any ela-
borate discussion. It will be superfluous to dwell upon the
public education of the Lacedemonians, which, after all, seems
to have extended little further than to the provisions of a ge-
neral military conscription, or to examine the political ro-
mance of Xenophon. The dreams of a theorist are of little
authority, and the results of the boasted Spartan education,
were by no means such as to entitle it to any high commenda-
tion. It has been well observed by a judicious author, that,
" while the arts of life were improving in all the neighbour-
ing nations, Sparta derived this noble prerogative from her con-
stitution, that she continued the nearest to her pristine bar-
barity; and in the space of nearly a thousand years (which
include the whole period in which letters and the arts were
the most cultivated in the rest of Greece) produced no one
poet, orator, historian, or artist of any kind. The convulsions
of Athens, where life was in some measure enjoyed, and
the faculties of body and mind had their proper exercise and


gratification, were far preferable to the savage uniformity of

A little consideration will convince the man of a thinking
nind, that the prescriptions of civil authority universally act
as barriers to the improvement of the arts. The language is,
" hitherto shall thou go, but no farther." Itis, however, the
business of education not to cramp, but to guide the intellect.
Its province extends to the inculcating of those fundamental
principles upon which the structure of science is to be built :
the finishing of the structure ought to be left in a great mea-
sure to individual discretion. To the attainment of truth,
freedom of inquiry is absolutely essential. A man may as
well attempt to penetrate the mazes of an entangled wood in
fetters, as to investigate the vast variety of intellectual sub-
jects, with a mind trammelled by the imperative decisions of
human institutions. And to the reducing the general mind to
this degrading predicament, do the prescriptions of civil au-
thority in matters of literature usually tend. They lead to the
fostering of prejudice, and to the perpetuation of error. They
necessarily keep a nation stationary in the march of intellect,
and repress that expansion of thought which is the parent of
excellence. To a certain degree they may be productive of
decided and powerful effects ; but the uniformity of habit and
character, which they are calculated to produce, rather tends
to lower man to the level of brutal instinct, than to raise him
higher in the scale of the intelligent creation.

On these speculations, however, it is unnecessary to enlarge.
We are in this case free from the necessity of wandering
through the airy indistinctness of theory. In offering a few
liints upon the process of Education, which may be suitable
to the condition and circumstances of a Briton, we are hap-
pily authorized to assume the position, that the child is left to
the disposal of its parent.

Education is, indeed, in the British empire, an object of
national concern. Our various universities and public schools,
are splendid monuments qf the attention paid by our ancestors


to the important object of training and enlightening the youth-
ful mind. The provision made for the support of these esta*
blishments, especially in England and Ireland, is, generally
speaking, munificent. At the same time it is not sufficient to
afford a temptation to the indulgence of idleness, by the con-
version of responsible offices into sinecures. The dignity
hence accruing to their teachers and professors, invests them
with high authority, and imparts additional weight to their in-
structions; while the respect in which they are habitually
held by long established prescription, gives a powerful sanc-
tion to the system of their discipline. In Scotland the case is
somewhat different, but the result is perhaps little less favour-
able to general improvement. The professors who lecture in
the universities of that kingdom, depend for the principal part
of their emoluments upon the fees which they receive from
pupils, whose attendance upon their instructions is in many
instances optional. Their gains being, therefore, in propor-
tion to their reputation, this circumstance is a strong stimulus
to exertion, and bids fair to ensure to the superior Scottish
seminaries of education, a succession of learned and scientific
preceptors. The constitution and utility of the Scottish parish
schools, have been ably and feelingly described by that excel-
lent writer and amiable man, the late Dr. Currie ; and though
the claim of the supporters of Dr. Bell, to denominate his
mode of educating tlie lower orders of the community a
" national system," may be disputed, there is every reason to
hope that his labours, and those of the indefatigable Lancas-
ter, will, in the lapse of a short time, place the elements of
knowledge within the reach of the humblest individual in the
British Isles.

Various and extensive, however, as our public establish-
ments for education may be, with the exception of the indivi-
duals who dedicate themselves to the ministry in our national
churches, and, perhaps, also of those who devote themselves
to the study of the law, it may be affirmed of the great mass
of our community, that in the momentous article of the edu-


cation of his offspring, every one is permitted to follow the
dictates of his own discretion.

From this circumstance has arisen a question which, though
discussed in successive generations from the time of Quintilian,
down to the present day, has, by reason of the freedom of
our views and of our habits, been no where more frequently
and more earnestly argued than in our native country namely,
which is preferable a public or a private Education. This
question certainly involves matter of high importance, aiid is
well deserving of serious consideration.

On entering upon the investigation of this problem, how-
ever it may be expedient to remark, that the Roman rhe-
torician, whose opinions on this subject have been so frequent-
ly quoted, does not by any means treat upon it in the abstract.
The general scope of his immortal work, is to detail the pro-
cess by which a Roman youth might attain to excellence in
that accoropliehment, which in his time, was the means of
attaining the highest civic honours, viz. the eloquence of the
forum, and of the senate. It would indeed be a species of
laborious trifling, to treat this as an abstract inquiry. Its
decision in each case must in a great degree depend upon the
particular circumstances of the individual interested in that
decision. Is it not, for instance, most clearly the height of
absurdity to think of committing a youth, feeble in body or
in mind, to the discipline of our public schools ? The system
necessarily adopted in those seminaries does not admit of
those relaxations and indulgences, and of that minuteness of
attention, which are requisite to mitigate the effects of cor-
poreal or mental infirmity. In so rude a climate, a sickly
plant will speedily wither and die. What an affecting picture
does the biographer of Cowper delineate, of the subject of
his memoir just emerging from an infancy of peculiar delicacy,
and sent to encounter, without protection, the contentions and
buffetings of a public seminary of education. " The little
Cowper was sent to his first school in the year of his mo-
ther's death, and how ill suited the scene was to. his pecu-


liar character, must be evident to all who have heard him de-
scribe his sensations in that season of life, which is often very
erroneously extolled as the happiest period of human exist-
ence. He has frequently been heard to lament the persecu-
tion he sustained in his childish years, from the cruelty of
his school-fellows, in the two scenes of his education. His
own forcible expression represented him at Westminster as
not daring to raise his eye above the shoe-buckle of the elder
boys, who were too apt to tyrannize over his gentle spirit.
The acuteness of his feelings in his childhood, rendered those
important years, (which might have produced, under ten-
der cultivation, a series of lively enjoyments) miserable years
of increasing timidity and depression which, in the most cheer-
ful hours of his advanced life, he could hardly describe to an
intimate friend, without shuddering at the recollection of his
early wretchedness."

True it is, that at Westminster school, Cowper acquired a
considerable store of learning, and imbibed the principles of
that just taste, which characterizes all his writings. But at what
a price were these accomplishments purchased ? What was
the effect of the process to which he was there obliged to
submit, upon the happiness of his future existence ? His
health was impaired. His spirits were broken. He withdrew
from the active scenes of society into a comparatively useless
retirement and he finally became a prey to that morbid sen-
sibility which, for the long and dreary space of thirteen years,
rendered his life a blank in the records of intellectual existence.

They, who are narrowly limited in the means of supporting
and establishing their families, must be regarded as hazarding
a perilous experiment, when they educate their sons at public
schools. There, habits of expense are almost necessarily con-
tracted habits, which in the heirs to title and wealth, may

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 44)