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in acquiring those languages, often without success, being here employed in laying such a foundation of knowledge and ability as, properly improved, may qualify them to pass through and execute the several offices of civil life, with advantage and reputation to themselves and country.
OBSERVATIONS RELATIVE TO THE INTENTIONS OF THE ORIGINAL FOUNDERS OF THE ACADEMY
In Philadelphia. June, 1789.
As the English school in the academy has been, and still continues to be, a subject of dispute and discussion among the trustees since the restitution of the charter, and it has been proposed that we should have some regard to the original intention of the founders in establishing that school, I beg leave, for your information, to lay before you what I know of that matter originally, and what I find on the minutes relating to it, by which it will appear how far the design of that school has been adhered to or neglected.
Having acquired some little reputation among my fellow-citizens, by projecting the public library in 1732, and obtaining the subscriptions by which it was established; and by proposing and promoting, with success, sundry other schemes of utility, in 1749; I was encouraged to hazard another project, that of a public education for our youth. As in the scheme of the library I had provided only for English books, so in this new scheme my ideas went no farther than to procure the means of a good English education. A number of my friends, to whom I communicated the proposal, concurred with me in these ideas; but Mr. Allen, Mr. Francis, Mr. Peters, and some other persons of wealth and learning, whose subscriptions and countenance we should need, being of opinion that it ought to include the learned languages, I submitted my judgment to theirs, retaining however a strong prepossession in favor of my first plan, and resolving to preserve as much of it as I could, and to nourish the English school by every means in my power.
Before I went about to procure subscriptions, I thought it proper to prepare the minds of the people by a pamphlet, which I wrote, and printed, and distributed with my newspapers, gratis. The title was, Proposals relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania. I happen to have preserved one of them; and, by reading a few passages, it will appear how much the English learning was insisted upon in it; and I had good reason to know that this was a prevailing part of the motives for subscribing with most of the original benefactors.'
1 That the Rector be a man of good understanding, good morals, diligent and patient, learned in the languages and sciences, and a correct pure speaker and writer of the English tongue; to have such tutors under him as shall be necessary.
I met with but few refusals in soliciting the subscriptions; and the sum was the more considera
The English language might be taught by grammar; in which some of our best writers, as Tillotson, Addison, Pope, Algernon Sidney, Cato's letters, &c. should be classics: the styles principally to be cultivated, being the clear and the concise. Reading should also be taught, and pronouncing properly, distinctly, emphatically; not with an even tone, which underdoes, nor a theatrical, which over-does nature.
Mr. Locke, speaking of grammar, p. 252, says, "That to those the greatest part of whose business in this world is to be done with their tongue, and with their pens, it is convenient, if not necessary, that they should speak properly and correctly, whereby they may let their thoughts into other men's minds the more easily, and with the greater impression. Upon this account it is, that any sort of speaking, so as will make him be understood, is not thought enough for a gentleman. He ought to study grammar, among the other helps of speaking well; but it must be the grammar of his own tongue, of the language he uses, that he may understand his own country speech nicely, and speak it properly, without shocking the ears of those it is addressed to with solecisms and offensive irregularities. And to this purpose grammar is necessary; but it is the grammar only of their own proper tongues, and to those who would take pains in cultivating their language, and perfecting their styles. Whether all gentlemen should not do this, I leave to be considered, since the want of propriety and grammatical exactness is thought very misbecoming one of that rank, and usually draws on one guilty of such faults, the imputation of having had a lower breeding and worse company than suit with his quality. If this be so (as I suppose it is), it will be matter of wonder, why young gentlemen are forced to learn the grammars of foreign and dead languages, and are never once told of the grammar of their own tongues. They do not so much as know
ble as I had put the contribution on this footing, that it was not to be immediate, and the whole
there is any such thing, much less is it made their business to be instructed in it. Nor is their own language ever proposed to them as worthy their care and cultivating, though they have daily use of it, and are not seldom in the future course of their lives judged of by their handsome or awkward way of expressing themselves in it. Whereas the languages whose grammars they have been so much employed in, are such as probably they shall scarce ever speak or write; or if upon occasion this should happen, they should be excused for the mistakes and faults they make in it. Would not a Chinese, who took notice of this way of breeding, be apt to imagine, that all our young gentlemen were designed to be teachers and professors of the dead languages of foreign countries, and not to be men of business in their own 1"
Page 255, the same author adds, "That if grammar ought to be taught at any time, it must be to one that can speak the language already; how else can he be taught the grammar of it? This at least is evident from the practice of the wise and learned nations among the aucients. They made it a part of education to cultivate their own, not foreign tongues. The Greeks counted all other nations barbarous, and had a contempt for their languages. And though the Greek learning grew in credit among the Romans towards the end of their commonwealth, yet it was the Roman tongue that was made the study of their youth: their own language they were to make use of, and therefore it was their own language they were instructed and exercised in." And p. 281, "There can scarce be a greater defect (says he) in a gentleman, than not to express himself well either in writing or speaking. But yet I think I may ask the reader, whether he doth not know a great many, who live upon their estates, and so, with the name, should have the qualities of gentlemen, who cannot so much as tell a story as they should, VOL. I. M
paid at once, but in parts, a fifth annually during five years. To put the machine in motion, twentymuch less speak clearly and persuasively in any business. This I think not to be so much their fault as the fault of their education." Thus far Locke,
Monsieur Rollin reckons the neglect of teaching their own tongue a great fault in the French universities. He spends great part of his first volume of Belles Lettres on that subject; and lays down some excellent rules or methods of teaching French to Frenchmen grammatically, and making them masters therein, which are very applicable to our language, but too long to be inserted here. He practised them on the youth under his care with great success.
Mr. Hutchinson, Dial. p. 297, says, "To perfect them in the knowledge of their mother tongue, they should learn it in the grammatical way, that they not only speak it purely, but be able both to correct their own idiom, and afterwards enrich the language on the same foundation."
Dr. Turnbull, in his Observations on a liberal Education, says, p. 262, "The Greeks, perhaps, made more early advances in the most useful sciences than any youth have done since, chiefly on this account, that they studied no other language but their own. This no doubt saved them very much time; but they applied themselves carefully to the study of their own language, and were early able to speak and write it in the greatest perfection. The Roman youth, though they learned the Greek, did not neglect their own tongue, but studied it more carefully than we now do Greek and Latin, without giving ourselves any trouble about our own tongue."
Monsieur Simon, in an elegant Discourse of his among the Memoirs of the Academy of Belles Lettres at Paris, speaking of the stress the Romans laid on purity of language and graceful pronunciation, adds, "May I here make a reflection on the education we commonly give our children? It is very remote