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pensable requisites, of which the principles should be engrained in the public mind. They are truly republican sentiments and habits; and, as far as they prevail and become fashionable, so far will there be order and thrift in any free republic, and especially in this free country, in which there is such an unbounded scope for industry
Of the design and use of the Thumb.
The whole frame of the human body so clearly evinces design, and, of course, an All-Wise Designer, that atheism
would appear the extreme of folly if even there were no other arguments to confute it, than those which are in a manner forced upon us whenever we take a careul survey of ourselves.
The mechanism of the eye is marvellously complex, and yet nothing in it is superfluous; every part bearing a necessary and obvious relation to the purpose for which it was formed. Nor is the mechanism of the ear less adapted in every part to the design of its formation. These wonderful organs of sense are given us, however, in common with the lower animals, of which there are some that far excel us in clearness of sight and quickness of hearing. But the human body has one appendage, which belongs not to any of the brutal creation, and which evidences design or contrivance, as clearly as the eye or the ear: I mean the Thumb. This puny liinb, which is seldom noticed, by poet or philosopher, has been the main stay of the human family, in all ages and countries.
Had the human body lacked this little limb of labor, man would have been the most helpless of all animals, and indeed the whole race must nearly have perished thousands of years ere the present time. He neither could have tilled the ground, nor drawn a fish from the water. He neither could have felled the forests, nor furnished himself with weapons of defence against the
ferocious beasts with which they were inhabited. He would have been alike incapable of making and of using any of the instruments necessary for his sustenance, clothing, or defence. Suppose the thumb, and that only, had been overlooked in the general contrivance of the human body; suppose that all the organs and members of the body, and particularly the hands, were exactly as they are now, save that instead of four fingers and a thumb, there were five fingers standing parallel to each other :—the body, in that case, would have been a machine wonderfully curious, but utterly inadequate to the purposes of human life. Suppose further, that as a recompense for the want of the thumb, man had been gifted with a double or treble portion of intellect; he, notwithstanding, must have been helpless and wretched; for it would be out of the power of finite intellect to supply that deficiency, or even so much as to provide for the mere necessary wants of the body.
Man, upon his expulsion from paradise, was cast into a wilderness world, and a wilderness it must have remained to this day, but for the thumb upon his hand. He was commanded to subdue the earth, and was authorised to exercise dominion over the beasts of the field ;-things as much out of his power, had he been thumbless, as arresting the stars in their courses. But this feeble being, through the constant aid of the thumb, what wonders has he wrought! See the forests felled; see blooming gardens, and fields waving with the gold en wheat; see villages, towns, cities, the spacious and well-finished tenements of man; see his convenient and comely attire, the fulness of his cup and the comforts of his table; see thousands of ships proudly traversing the ocean, freighted with the superfluities of some countries for the supply of the wants of others ; see the finer works of art, pictures, statuary, engravings, embroidery:
:-see all these, and a thousand other things, and
you will recognize in every one of them, the agency of the thumb. Nay, all our books of Divinity, Law, Physic, Surgery, History, Biography, Philosophy, Poetry, or of whatever name or description, were first thumbed out by the laborious penmen of them. So true is it, that as the hand is instrument to all other instruments, it is the thumb chiefly, that ministers ability to the hand.
The thumb points to duty. Its admirable contrivance manifests both the wisdom and the goodness of the contriver. It plainly shows at the same time, that man is destined by his Maker to employments of manual labor; and consequently, that manual labor, so far from being a reproach to him, is one of the essential duties of his nature and condition, and ought rather to be held in honor than disgrace. And if there be some exceptions, they include but a very diminutive proportion of the human family; for, of the whole world, there are not inore perhaps than a hundredth part, who are fairly exempted, by rank, or fortune, or mental occupations, from the necessity of laboring with their hands.
Sucking the thumbs, is a proverbial phrase, denoting a total neglect of employing them in any useful way answerable to the design for which they were made. A great many of this "untoward generation” have the naughty trick of sucking their thumbs ;-a great many too, whose circumstances imperiously demand a better use of them. It is a pitiful practice, whether in man or woman; directly leading to poverty and want, and not unfrequently to the worst of vices. Parents and tutors should keep a sharp look out, lest their boys and girls get into this way, so dangerous to their morals, so deadening to all their faculties, and so destructive to their future prospects in life.
But there is one use of the thumb, that is infinitely worse than not using it at all: it is employing it in spreading abroad falsehood and moral poison, with the pen, and with the type. It were far better to be born without thumbs, than to use them so abominably.
THERE are multitudes who pass along the stream of life without laboring 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 serious and dangerous nature ; for such idlers not only burden community, but corrupt it. say that it were as well for their country that they had never been born, and that they are unworthy to be numbered in the census of its population; to say this, is say. ing too little. They not only do no good, but much harm; they not only prey upon the fruits of other men's industry, but deprave public morals. It is in the nature of this kind of gentry to multiply very fast, if they are not checked; for, besides that they commonly bring up their children, if children they have, in their own way of living, they are perpetually making proselytes from the families of their neighbors; 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 coinmonwealth. Those who had no visible ineans 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 labor. Those thrifty Hollanders are said to have employed, also, the following singular 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 was a pump.
The vagrant or idler was put into this box, which was so
placed, in the liquid element, that the water gushed 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 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 notorious 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 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 and 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 measnre. An infinite mass of mischief and crime would be prevented; the officers of justice would have little to do; our jails would, compar
atively, be empty.