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but that he never came out of any but with shame, because he wanted resolution to support himself whilst he was in them.
It is owing to the want of resolution, more than to the want of sound sense, that a great many persons have run into imprudences, injurious, and sometimes fatal, to their worldly interests. Numerous instances of this might be named, but I shall content myself with naming only one-and that is, rash and hazardous suretyship. The pit stands uncovered, and yet men of good sense, as well as amiable dispositions, plunge themselves into it, with their eyes wide open. Notwithstanding the solemn warnings in the proverbs of the Wise Man, and notwithstanding the examples of the fate of so many that have gone before them, they make the hazardous leap. And why? Not from inclination, or with a willing mind, but because, being solicited, urged and entreated, they know not how to say No. If they had learnt, not only to pronounce that monosyllable, but to make use of it on all proper occasions, it might have saved from ruin, both themselves and their wives and children.
But the worst of it is still behind. The ruin of character, of morals, and of the very soul of man, originates oft in a passive yieldingness of temper and disposition, or in the want of the resolution to say No. Thousands and many thousands, through this weakness, have been the victims of craft and deceit. Thousands and many thousands, once of fair promise, but now sunk in depravity and wretchedness, owe their ruin to the act of consenting, against their better judgments, to the enticements of evil companions and familiars. Had they said No, when duty, when honor, when conscience, when every thing sacred demanded it of them-happy might they now have been-the solace of their kindred, and the ornaments of society.
Sweetness of temper, charitableness of heart, gentleness of demeanor, together with a strong disposition to act obligingly, and even to be yielding in things indifferent or of trifling moment-are amiable and estimable traits of the human character: but there must be withal, and as the ground-work of the whole, such a firmness
of resolution as will guarantee it against yielding, either imprudently, or immorally, to solicitations and enticements. Else one has very little chance in passing down the current of life, of escaping the eddies and quicksands that lie in his way.
Firmness of purpose is one of the most necessary sinews of character, and one of the best instruments of success; without it, genius wastes its efforts in a maze of inconsistencies, and brings to its possessor, disgrace rather than honor.
Of the calamities of hereditary idleness.
We cannot make ourselves torpid as an oyster. We must needs be doing something with our existence, or endure else a wearisome load, as undescribable as it is intolerable. Indeed, occupation of some kind is so necessary to human quiet, that life itself is burdensome without it. For short as life is, there are but few, if any, who never complain, at heart, of the superfluity of their time. Whereas the wights, great and small, who have nothing at all to do, are, for the most part, perpetually uttering this most dolorous kind of complaint, or at least manifest no ordinary degree of restlessness -being burdened with their time much more than the most busy are burdened with their business.
The misery of idleness is to be seen nearly as much in high life, as in the rags and filth of extreme poverty. In Europe there are classes of people who are idle as it were out of necessity: not that they are unable to find employment, but they are unable to find such employment as they think comports with their dignity.— Manual labor of any kind would degrade them; nor does the condition of their rank allow them to enter into trade, or even to embrace any of the learned professions. In fact, save those few who are selected to take part in the administration of government, or who are placed in high military stations; they are condemn
ed, by the exalted condition of their birth, to perpetual idleness. And what is the result? It is, that this same loftiness of birth, which places them so far above all ordinary business, makes them doubly wretched.
"There is scarcely any truth more certain or more evident," says a writer, who was possessed of a personal knowledge of the splendid groupe, whose picture he has delineated," than that the noblesse of Europe, are, in general, less happy than the common people. There is one irrefragable proof of it, which is, that they do not maintain their own population. Families, like stars, or candles, which you will, are going out continually; and without fresh recruits from the plebeians, the nobility would, in time, be extinct. If you make allowances for the state, which they are condemned by themselves to support, they are poorer than the poordeeply in debt-and tributary to usurious capitalists, as greedy as the Jews."*
Persons in the intermediate grades between the very top and the very bottom of the scale of life, have precious advantages over those who are placed in either extreme. That they have advantages over the lowest, all will readily admit; and that they have some important advantages over the highest, is a position equally true. In point of real, solid comfort and happiness, the condition of the farmer or mechanic, who supplies his daily wants by the labor of his own hands, is infinitely preferable to that of the noblesse above described; who, for want of regular occupation, are under the hard necessity of resorting to numberless expedients and devices, to wear out the tedious moments of their earthly existence. Even whilst, with the utmost eagerness, they are seemingly pursuing pleasure, their chief efforts are to escape from misery, by killing the time which hangs so heavily upon their minds.For as to pleasure, they are so surfeited of it, that they seek it only as preferable to the distressing tediousness of total inaction.
Although, fortunately, in these United States, there are no hereditary ranks, that fix, as it were by never
* Discourses on Davilla, by the late president Adams.
ending entailment, the baneful disease of sloth, upon particular families; yet excessive wealth operates, not unfrequently, the like effects. "After a gatherer comes a scatterer"-is a proverbial saying, which, in whatever country it originated, is no where, perhaps, more strikingly matter-of-fact, than in our own. Indeed nothing can be more natural than the process. The "gatherer," if he have gathered a very large hoard, is of course a man of great worldly prudence; but so far from being able to bequeath that quality to his children, the single circumstance of their being set up in the world with fortunes, has an almost irresistible tendency to render them imprudent and improvident. You cannot put the old head upon the young shoulders. You can hardly convince the rich-born youth, that much care and attention will be necessary on his part, properly to husband the fortune that falls to him. There is more than an even chance that he will be either carelessly indolent, or prodigally dissipated; that he will either waste his time in idleness, or spend it in vain, if not vicious, pursuits.
The vanity of wealth, will alike affect his children, and his children's children, who will feel themselves quite above the ordinary occupations of life. Meanwhile the family estate will have been divided and subdivided, till the share of each becomes very small. A sort of stateliness, is, however, kept up in their narrow circumstances, and even in their poverty. They preserve, with a sort of religious reverence, old pictures, little fragments of plate, or some precious memorial of what once was. For the pride of family, founded altogether upon wealth, seldom suffers much abatement by the ruin of that foundation. Thus it is that the needy descendants of a very rich family are in a far worse condition than most others of the sons and daughters of want; since the indolence of their habits and the magnificence of their notions, alike incapacitate them for procuring a comfortable livelihood, and for enjoying the little they possess.
It is a calamity to want an aim; and to this is owing the ruin of many of our youth. Unaccustomed to any kind of regular industry, and having no particular aim,
nothing present to occupy their time, or in prospect to engage their attention; they hie to the haunts of dissipation and vice, to relieve themselves from the insupportable lassitude of idleness.
Of the lamentable species of helplessness occasioned by Pride and false Shame.
LEARN your children to help themselves, is a practical maxim deserving more general notice than it ever yet has obtained, or peradventure ever will obtain, among the little great of this world. The highest and most important part of the art of teaching is to learn the young mind to think for itself, and to exercise and exert its faculties of judgment and understanding, as well as of memory; for these faculties grow and increase only by exercise. The less they are exercised in childhood, the more feeble they become in manhood. And besides, one who has been unwonted to the exertions of thought in the early years of life, commonly lacks all disposition to accustom himself to it afterwards; it being a kind of labor which early habit makes pleasant, but which early neglect renders intolerably irksome.
And as children should be led to think for themselves, or to exert those faculties which pertain to the mind only; so also should they be inured to the exercise of those mixed faculties that call forth the exertion of the mind and body conjointly. This class of exercises is of more easy performance, especially in childhood, than the other. It is altogether natural too; and it tends to give vigor and alertness alike to the mental and the corporeal frame. If children be made to help themselves as soon and as much as they are able, it wonderfully conduces to the improvement of their faculties, and has at the same time a favorable influence upon their dispositions; while on the other hand, if they are taught to depend altogether on others, the rust of sloth