Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Israelitish woman was a spinster : but all the women that were wisehearted did spin with their hands. And no doubt they did yie with one another in regard to ingenuity and beauty of workmanship, both of spinning and of dying ; and all this put into exercise the faculties of their minds, which, in no small degree, were brightened and expanded by such exercise.

We have heard our grandmothers say, that, in their times, the like was seen in New-England that the wise-hearted women did spin-that they did seek wool and flax, and did work willingly with their handsand, thus, clothed their households, if not with scarlet, yet with garments decent and warm ;-and that it was the happy She, who could outdo her neighbouring females, either in despatch, or in the strength or the beauty of her work.

The labouring men of our country, and especially of the northern section of it, can turn themselves with wonderful facility to different kinds of employment. Generally, they are not altogether this thing, or that, or the other. The mechanick knows how to use the hoe and the plough ; or if not, his single trade embraces what, in old countries, is branched into half a doz. en. The farmer too, besides the great scope of thought and contrivance which his own properemployment gives him, is, in some respects, an artist ; some parts of mechanical business, of the coarser but most necessary kind, he can turn his hand to upon occasions. The consequence of this is, that our countrymen are not so perfect in any one particular. Whereas the labouring artisans of the older world commonly excel in one thing, but are quite ignorant of every thing else. If they are put aside from their particular trades, they know not how to help themselves by any other means.

There are advantages on both sides ; but, in my

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

humble opinion, by far the greatest on our own. Distant from us be the day, when, by subdivision of labour, after the present manner of crowded countries, a large proportion of the American population shall be confined as it were in dungeons-rarely seeing the open face of heaven or of earth-and perpetually employed in the dull round of occupations incapable of starting a single idea in their minds.

NUMBER XXX.

Of the brood of idlers-particularly the gentlemanly

idlers.

There are multitudes who pass along the stream of life without labouring at the oar, or paying any thing for their passage ; so that the charge of their fare falls most unreasonably, upon their fellow-passengers. This is an evil of a very serious and dangerous nature ; for such idlers not only burden community, but corrupt it. To say that it were as well for their country that they had never been born, and that they are unwortny to be numbered in the census of its population; to say this, is saying too little. They not only do no good, but much harm : they not only prey upon the fruits of other mens' industry, but deprave public morals. They are like scabby sheep that taint the flock. It is in the nature of this kind of gentry to multiply very fast, if they are not checked ; for, besides that they common. ly bring up their children, if children they have, in their own way of living, they are perpetually making proselytes from the families of their neighbours ; leading astray, by their examples and enticements, a great many youths, who, but for them, might have been industrious, and useful to society.

In some countries, the wisdom of legislators has been much employed on this subject, and the arm of executive power has enforced industry as a political duty which every person owed to the state. The Hollanders in particular, in the early age of their republic, considered idle persons as politically criminal, and punished idleness as a crime against the commonwealth. Those who had no visible means of an honest livelihood were called before the magistracy to give an account how they got their living ; and, if they were unable to render a satisfactory explanation on this point, they were put to labour. Those thrifty Hollanders are said to have employed, also, the following singuler expedient. They constructed a kind of box sufficiently large for a man to stand therein upright and exercise his bodily faculties. In the interior of it there was a pump. The vagrant or idler was put into this box, which was so placed, in the liquid element, that the water would gush into it constantly, through apertures in its bottom and sides; so that the lazy culprit had to work at the pump, with all his might, and for several hours together, to keep himself from drowning. The medicine, it is said, was found to be an infallible cure for the disease ; insomuch that no person was ever known to work at the pump for the second time.

I do by no means recommend those old Dutch laws and customs for domestic use here. Sacred Liberty ! I would not hurt a hair of thy head. Yet every thing ought to be done in this case, which can be done, consistently with that personal liberty which our free constitutions of government guarantee to every citizen of the States. How far our laws, in consistency with the rights of citizens, might go towards restraining nos

torious idleness and dissipation with respect to adults, it is not for me to say. I leave it to men in upper life, and gifted with superior wisdom. Thus far, however, I will venture to affirm, that, as children, in some sense or other, do actually belong to the community, so it ought to be in the power, and be made the duty, of the political guardians of the public welfare, to see to it that they be brought up in such a manner that they may be likely to strengthen and adorn, rather than weaken and deprave society. For which reason, when idle profligate parents are manifestly leading their children in their own footsteps, they ought to be taken from the dominion of such unworthy parents, and be placed under the care of those who would accustom them to habits of virtuous industry. It would be an act of charity to the children themselves; and would give to the general community a vast number of sound and useful members, who, else, would grow up to prey upon its earnings and poison its morals. If all suitable pains were taken with the rising generation, to induce them to sober and industrious habits, by example, by the incitements of persuasion, and even by reasonable force, whenever force is necessary, the effects would be happy beyond measure. An infinite mass of mischief and crime would be prevented; the officers of justice would have little to do ; our jails would, comparatively, be empty

I will only add, Public Sentiment, as it now stands, in some,

if not in most parts, of our country, must needs be rectified; else idleness and dissipation will continue to gather numbers and strength. So long as an idle worthless chap-perchance a gambler and sharper --by means of a fine coat, a lily-hand, and graceful bows, is able to take rank of an industrious, worthy young farmer, or mechanic, who gets an honest living

[ocr errors]

by the sweat of his face it will be vain to denounce idleness, or to recommend industry. Under such circumstances, young men, whose ambition is more than a match for their moral principle, very naturally turn idlers, or set out to live by their wits; well knowing that if they can only keep up a gentlemanly appearance, by almost whatever means, they will be much better received, and rank much higher, than if they were plain, industrious, labouring men.

Lo, a Ball! a splendid ball.–And who enters now ? Who is he, that all the gentlemen greet so heartily, and all the ladies notice so readily? It is Mr. Flash, an itinerant, who, without funds, without industry, without any visible means, always dresses in high taste, and has, at his fingers' end, every punctilio of fashionable manners-he is quite the gentleman, every inch of hiin.

NUMBER XXXI,

Of productive labour, other than that of the hands.

[ocr errors]

6 KNOWLEDGE is power." This was a favourite maxim of Bacon, so eminent in the ranks of philosophy.

The weakness of man is marvellously strengthened by his knowledge. It is by his superiour knowledg that he gains dominion over the various races of an mals, of which many are much stronger and swifte: than he ; over the stubborn earth, and over the power ful elements, Fire, Air, and Water. Naked came hi into the world, and naked must he ever have remained had not the inspiration of the Almighty given him un derstandingand furnished him with motives to employ this noble faculty in an infinite variety of useful ways.

« ПредишнаНапред »